It’s been a long, long time since I have shared anything here in the hub of Kt Shepherd Permaculture.
Throughout 2017 I had increasing and rapid problems with my health, resulting in being diagnosed with Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, (M.E.), in July. I had been unable to do any work, (either nursing or permaculture), since May. And once I knew what was wrong with me I needed to put all my precious energy into figuring out how I was going to survive and get better from, this new and very disabled place I found myself in.
I pinned notices on my website, saying I would be away from my work, until my health improved
I have learnt over this time about the many levels of complexity - physically, socially, politically, emotionally, spiritually - that is the reality and experience of M.E.
I’m not going to use this space to focus on my illness. There is a huge amount of online information out there about these aspects of M.E. Two of my favourite resources I can recommend to learn more, are Unrest, (a powerful, beautiful film released in the months following my own diagnosis. And, the Phoenix Rising Website.
Towards the end of last year, I remained very physically unwell, in bed for over twenty hours a day, (on good days). But cognitively I had improved and I had started longing for more connection with my permaculture work again. I made the decision to accept the experience of the new reality I found myself in, instead of putting 100% of my time and energy into finding a ‘cure’. All I have learnt about M.E. suggests to me that I could well live in the low functioning state I am in for many more months, maybe years. I want that time to be as great as possible.
As soon as I made the choice to design a way of returning to my permaculture work, I felt an emotional and spiritual weight lift. It felt more empowered and optimistic than I had for a long, long time.
So here I am.
Initially I’m planning on creating short, regular posts, explaining how I have used permaculture design ethics, tools and principles to ensure I thrive as much as possible while living with and healing from a chronic illness.
Watch this space
Yesterday I celebrated finishing a big chapter in my journey of development as a Facilitator of people centred permaculture work. The year long programme involved mentoring creating and undertaking 3 designs for my work, participating in a variety of online and face to face gatherings with others doing the same course, and maintaining a reflective journal of my learning, experience and accountability.
The course has been a really important and motivating factor underpinning my current work as a permaculture practitioner and designer. I'll be spending the next month or so designing the next phase of my work, developing the workshops, mentoring, designing and tutoring work already undertaken as well as exploring some exciting new project ideas. These will be detailed and updated here on my website
Last night, as I spent time on Skype with others from the course, sharing my portfolio of designs and reflections on experiences of the past year, I felt so much gratitude that I have been able to be part of this programme. It felt very fitting to use my own "5 Elements" permaculture tool, inspired by my Earth Based spirituality, to guide my reflections in this presentation. This tool is something I will be writing more about in another post. Doing the Facilitator training has been a fantastic way of taking a lot of the design knowledge and experience gained in my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design to a new level, as well as making and embedding connections with some other wonderful practitioners focusing on people centred permaculture projects.
For more details about participating in future People & Permaculture facilitator training see this link - you can also read more about my experience of the training here
Yesterday I faciltated an informal two hour workshop, "Design Your 2017" at the wonderful Settle Community and Business Hub, in Settle, North Yorks. The main aim of the workshop was to use a creative design process to inspire and empower people to develop their own planning system, in order to help achieve goals they have for the year ahead. Ten women from four counties, (including Ann via Skype), came along, and we spent a lovely morning sharing experiences, ideas and tools, with guidence from The Design Web by Looby Macnamara
The workshop was a new project for me and it felt like a positive way of using people centred permaculture design in non permaculture focused settings. Some women in the group use permaculture in other areas of their lives and others didn't. My general observations throughout the morning, and then the feedback afterwards, indicated that the format was really accesible to all though. The event could have definately been extended to perhaps a whole day, but overall this workshop design seemed to be really sucessful and its definately something I would repeat again.
We left with plans to reignite a monthly gathering in Settle, in order to create a space for momentum, reflection , support and sharing of our 2017 stories.
Its exactly a year since I completed the wonderful People and Permaculture Facilitation (FIT) training Attending the Permaculture Association's Thriving Communities Gathering this weekend, and meeting up with Anna and Charlie who had also attended the FIT training, got me thinking about how FIT and the resulting monthly online gatherings, had influenced my permaculture design/work.
Anna, Charlie and myself, all facilitated key workshops focusing on People Centred Permaculture projects, at the Thriving Communities Gathering - it felt like a very meaningful presence, bringing our applied and tested designs focusing on People Care and Fair Shares, to the event.
More details about our workshops, (text taken from the event programme) -
Reciprocity in Communities - Working with deprivation - with Charlie Gray of Horton Community Farm & Grow Bradford, 1.30pm
This workshop is about creating reciprocal relationships in deprived communities, of which Charlie has great experience to share through her work in and around Bradford. Charlie is part of a LAND permaculture Centre in Bradford, West Yorks as well as Grow Bradford and Plenty, all food related organisations which are helping to transform food systems across Bradford by various means.
The next steps for these projects are all focused on how to link underprivileged and privileged areas and how to run projects across these areas to best effect.
Using the Design Web - Diploma Accreditation with Anna Locke, 3.00pm
An accreditation event is the culmination of the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, in which the apprentice makes a 45 minute presentation of a selection of their design work to a peer group panel made up of Diploma holders and Design Course Certificate holders. This panel also inspects the student's portfolio and assesses the work against the accreditation criteria.
Anna Locke is presenting highlights from her 3 year diploma journey. Her 10 designs reflect her paid work as a community gardener as well as a playful translation of some of the classic land-based permaculture concepts into reality --- e.g. Hugelkulture, biodiversity, using edges, green manures, grafting, irrigation, creating structures and more.
The presentation is in two parts- first an overview of the 10 designs- 7 of which are in London and 3 of which are within a very large community forest project in Sussex.
The second part is about a growing connection with the use of the design web. Because of the complex nature of community gardening Anna started using the design web and doing people-centred designs. There is a clear progression along the 10 designs journey and she will be giving her thoughts, tips, observations and reflections gathered along the way.
Creative Dying: Permaculture Design for end of life care - Katie Shepherd, 1.30pm
Creative Dying uses permaculture design at its centre. The workshop will encourage participants to explore creative, positive and unique approaches that we can take to design the end of our lives and how we die. It will appeal to the many people throughout the world already using permaculture to increase resilience and healing in other aspects of their life and work.
My current designs, especially the development of my overall Right Livelihood and then Creative Dying, (using permaculture to design how we die), have evolved and grown in a really effective way over the past year, with much of the knowledge and experience of the FIT training being core to this deepening growth.
My next steps over the following month are to document these designs into a publicly accessible format, meaning others can benefit from more accessible People Focused design information.
Today is World Mental Health Day - there are so many elements to good or poor mental health, many - discrimination, privilege, environmental destruction, global conflicts, war, seemingly unstoppable ravage by our political systems - feel massive and completely beyond our control, These are often some of the reasons that people choose to learn about permaculture and how to use it in their lives and work.
Many people I meet in the permaculture community, and beyond, explicitly express chronic grief for the Earth, despite lots of amazing permaculture design work being undertaken by them on our lands and in our communities. Much of the grief seems to comes in waves of intensity. Leaving people and their projects damaged, sick and unable to function to achieve the desperately needed regenerative results.
I firmly include myself within this collective grief and I believe there are ways of things we can do, personally and in our local/online communities which can help. Help us to heal, make us more resilient, and regenerate. Some of them are listed below.
I know from experience that permaculture design with its principles and ethics can make so much difference to mental and emotional health, and can offer further holistic tools in addition to the ones suggested above by the World Federation For Mental Health I find Looby Macnmaras Design Web really useful process for personal design. Its web pattern reflects the web like nature of mental health – none linear, diverse connections. I’m not the only one, I know many other people who are using permaculture to improve their holistic health in so many ways.
Permaculture design may not be able to take away the structures and harm which feeds our on-going despair and grief, but for me it has made a long-lasting difference in how I live and thrive despite times when my grief has seemed overwhelming.
The theme for this years World Mental Health Day is ‘Psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress’ – today I will be doing some mindmapping and observations around this with the aim of creating a community design focusing on this theme.
Other related resources you may find useful
Overcoming burnout part 7 - Composting Grief - Nicole Vosper
Active Hope - How to face the mess we are in without going crazy - Joanna Macey and Chris Johnson
People and Permaculture - Looby Macnamara
New FB Group – Perma-Health
What's Your Grief
The Earth Path - Starhawk - more information on The Well of Grief
Artwork by Jaine Rose
Once again day and night, light and dark are equal, reminding us to find the balanced edge of equilibrium between our outer and inner selves.
Autumn equinox marks the final end of the outer growth cycle. It’s a time of change with high tides, wild changeable weather and wild uncertainties as we plan what to do next. The shorter, colder days and colder, longer nights affect these decisions. We recognise this as a transition point, an opportunity for a new set of possibilities and the opportunity to grow in new ways. We take all we have learnt during the spring and summer and transform them by taking them with us.
We walk the outer ways and walk the inner way, and aim to flow in poise and balance in the wild edges in between.
Glennie Kindred – Letting in the Wild Edges
Today is the Autumn Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere and Ive decided to use the energies and characteristics of this Earth Festival to start a design that hopefully others will also be able to take inspiration from focusing on creating and maintaining balance in our lives. I've had a few months away from the focus of my work as a permaculture designer and practitioner, so it feels a great way to get back involved with documenting my reflections again.
Im using OBRADIMET (Observe, Boundaries, Resources, Analyse, Decisions, Implement, Maintain, Evaluate, Tweak), as a Design Process as its one that fits well with some of my initial ideas before I start considering the details.
What areas of my life feel in balance at the moment?
Work, play, Right Livelihood, physical health, emotional health, energy levels, spiritual connections, what I give, what I receive, …..
What don’t feel in balance?
What does balance feel/look like to me?
What does out of balance look/feel like to me?
What actual or potential boundaries are in my life which create unwanted imbalances for me?
What positive boundaries/edges do I have in my life which will help keep the balances I create?
What kind of resources do I have now that help create positive balance in my life?
What resources do I need to seek out?
Are there resources I have identified since the spring equinox, over the summer, that can be useful?
People, knowledge, time, finances, skills, work, experiences, patterns, ideas …..
How does all the information I have gained so far in the design connect and influence each other?
What are the functions of the design?
Which permaculture principles can help with guiding my design ?
I have decided to focus on the Principles created by David Holmgren for this design
How do the permaculture ethics of people care, earth care and fairshares help shape how I will create and improve balance in my life?
From my evaluation what decisions have I come up with my design?
How am I going to implement my decisions?
What realistic timescale will I use?
Maintain, Evaluate and Tweak
How will I maintain the momentum of my decisions?
How will I make sure that any tweaks made to the design, after evaluation, are then included in the implementation plan?
Connections to other designs in my life, aim to mini -evaluate at every full moon and then big evaluation at the Spring Equinox...
Tools and Resources
Initial thoughts about design tools and resources I aim to use in this design
Web of connections
Zoning (life/people focused)
SWOC (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Constraints)
For more detail and ideas about tools used in permaculture design see Aranya's excellent book Permaculture Design - A Step By Step Guide
Gaiacraft Learning and Teaching Tools - to help explore and identify permaculture principles in a creative way
Letting in the Wild Edges by Glennie Kindred
Nicole Vosper's entire series of blog posts on Overcoming Burnout will also be a major resource contribution to this design.
So here we are, a basic framework for a design I am currently working on inspired by the timing of the Autumn Equinox and my return to deeper focus on my permaculture work and development.
Please contact me if you would like support from me either in my role as a Diploma (in Applied Permaculture Design) Tutor, or as a mentor/coach, with a similar design.
Be inspired and educated today, listen to the voice and truth of Brandi Mack .
I had the privilege of meeting Brandi and sharing time on the Earth Activist Training Jan 2013 with her. Brandi and her work has had a profound effect on my own permaculture work and life meaning, and I have so much gratitude to her. This interview with her on the Women's Leadership in Permaculture Forum is incredibly powerful, healing, and so many of her words I know, are going to be further guiding my work and life.
"If we cannot look at this trauma, open it up, cry about it and then create some solutions around it, then we've lost the mark...we are missing out because we are not willing to be uncomfortable ....move out the way of a project and look at the people....I want to see the women leading it (permaculture) more, and it being ok"
#empoweringwomenandgirls #socialpermaculture #blackurbanfarming #decolonisation #blacklivesmatter #womenleaders #regeneratingcommunities #permacultureinspiration #healingagriculture #liberationpermaculture
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.
This week is Dying Matters Awareness week in the UK - a big diverse event with many people and organisations holding events to promote awareness about subjects relating the death and dying. I decided a few months ago that this week would be my goal for launching the zone 3-5 phase of a design, Designing Dying, I started about 4 years ago as part of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design.
I started the latest phase of the design, now called "Creative Dying" by using a different design process (The Design Web by Looby Macnamara) to explore the design at a new level. I presented my experience of doing this at the National Diploma Gathering earlier this month.
Creative Dying is a website and coaching/workshop business which aims to support people - at any time of their life - to plan and design the death they would like.
It is focused at anyone who would like to explore the creative, positive and unique approaches that we can take to considering the end of our lives and how we die.
Creative Dying uses permaculture design at its centre and will appeal to the many people throughout the world already using permaculture to increase resilience and healing in other aspects of their life and work.
Im really passionate about the journey of this design for many reasons, and will be writing regular updates about its progress and hopefully success here.
Creative Dying on Facebook
Creative Dying on Twitter
“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
regular updates and reflections about the permaculture designs in my life