Design #1 

PEACH

Location: My body and mind
Client: Myself
Start Date: Oct 2012
End Date: On going...
Design frame work: C.E.A.P.
Collect Information
History

Who am I? Oh Manure!!!

I spent the first half of my adult life either squatting or Travelling. Both of these 'ways of life' were important in different ways. Squatting involves occupying houses and warehouse that are disused. With an estimate of 185’000 homeless in the U.K. and a shortage of housing. Many of the houses we occupied were council owned, so with the ever lengthening housing lists, why are these houses not being made available.

After 6 years of fighting for squatters rights and the dulcet words of The Clash ringing in my ears, ‘I fought the law and the law won’, disheartened, I bought a 10 tonne truck and took to the road, with my 3 year old daughter and boyfriend Alan. For the next 6 years we travelled through Europe, creating one of the best communities I have known. Living, working and meeting up with friends during the festival season in the summer months, fruit picking in different countries throughout the year and ‘skipping’ (or more commonly known now through the Americanism, 'Dumpster Diving') meant we would be able to live a modest life, not always an easy one, but with the support of each other, friends became family and many a good time was had.

We lived without mains electricity and fridges (12 volt battery power would serve for most things like lights and the radio), usually on very little to no money, and the minimum of water. Between the three of us we averaged out at 25ltrs a day, this included watering my extensive collection of potted plants that came everywhere with us. Many times we would be asked ‘How do you wash?’ Laughing, the reply would usually come back as ‘Soap and water! How do you wash?’

But eventually times change and my daughter then aged 9yrs wanted to go to main stream school (up until now she had been Home Educated, not just by me, but joining in on the wealth of knowledge from the community around us). With the help of a small inheritance from two of my grandparents, I started to look for land to park up on.

I eventually fell in love with one and a half hectare of disused olive grove in southern Catalunya. Close friends who had been on the same vibe and bought land at the same time, (It helped that the land was cheap in this area). I felt happy to have some of my community close by.

After two years and the arrival of my second daughter Georgia, life took a turn for the worse. I lost one of my best friends to a car crash the day after my birthday. Two months later, the caravan we were then living in got struck by lightning and burnt to the ground with my beautiful and trusted dog ‘Grizzle’ inside. Cutting my losses, I split up with my boyfriend and father of Georgia, Tony.

But for me this was the start of better things to come. I decided it was time to build a house!!! On the farm was an old 20 square metre casita (small farm building, used for keeping tools and harvests in and hiding from the summer sun) with no roof and crumbling 80cm thick stone walls. Thinking this would be just a little too small for the three of us, I extended it to double the width (40 sq m).

Believing that conventional housing is built as a convenience not in harmony with our health or the environment (and having no money to spend on materials), I wanted to build as naturally as possible. I pulled down the southernmost wall, dug down to the bed-rock and started laying down my footing stones just as they had built the original casita.

I knew very little about how to build a house, and using just two books on building drystone walls (no internet at that point!) I got started. Water was a scarce commodity, as I was still transporting it on to site. I was happy to keep my solid waste (poop!) separate and decided to build a low water bathroom with just a grey-water waste system.

Two years later on Oct 19th 2009 (my 40th birthday), we moved in.

The next year while speaking to a friend about what I was doing he suggested I looking to Permaculture, thinking it would be right up my street, little did he know what he had started! It spoke to me with everything I had in my heart and my head, I had just found my new pathway.

Back to the finer details,
  • Single mother of two wonderful girls, Georgia and Fynla. When I started my diploma both girls were living at home, years on and Fynla has finished her secondary education and moved to England to further her studies in Interior Architecture

  • Skills: Bespoke picture framer (although it’s hard to find the time to do this professionally nowadays)

  • Gardener with NVQ 1&2 in horticulture

  • Self-motivated but suffer from a bad case of procrastination, and a preference to spend time in the garden than on a computer or doing the house work

  • Diploma apprentice

  • Health: Fit and strong but I smoke. I have three hernias in my neck that prevent me lifting heavy objects, which I should be doing Pilates for

  • I over work myself

  • I eat healthy foods but not organically as organic food is very expensive. I would prefer to support my local community and eat seasonally. I eat meat but when I can, prefer to buying from the the local butchers than from the supermarket, (It also lacks packaging)

  • I farm the olives and carobs, grow my own vegetables and raise my own chickens for meat and eggs

Evaluate

I would like to look at the ways that I can use the principle 'Catch and Store energy' to look where I can be more productive in the way I use my energy.

By using SWOC I wanted to understand where I was having more difficulties in my confidence and identify my strengths.

Strengths

  • Supportive family and friends

  • Love to draw and design

  • Good skill base

  • Self-motivated

  • Determined

  • Healthy

  • Respect people for who they are not what they have

  • One of my greatest strengths is pulling myself out of my weaknesses

  • Positive thinker. - have the ability to work on my negative thoughts

  • I am not shy of trying new things or taking calculated risks

  • I can be resourceful, solving practical problems and using what is around me

  • Self employed

  • Part time employment

Weaknesses

  • Identifying my weaknesses

  • Not good at communicating

  • Procrastination

  • When tired will eat badly

  • I keep my emotions to myself and don’t let people get in, which can make me look arrogant.

  • Language skills; which can be a problem when living in a foreign country and wanting to teach in that language

  • Self-confidence; in sharing my knowledge with others or that I can speak without ambiguity

  • Not finishing what I start

  • I can be critical of other people’s abilities

  • I like to take control. In teamwork situations I can be pushy, especially if someone is finding an activity or a problem, which I think is easy, difficult. I have a tendency to take over rather that help them work through it

  • I smoke

Opportunities

  • Large piece of land to work with

  • Low energy consumer

  • To meet with like-minded people in the surrounding area, sharing knowledge and organising work action groups

  • Financial (due to inheritance)

  • To create a viable business in 'Ethical Tourism'

  • To educate people in permaculture and how to live their lives more sustainably using the land and resources I have

  • Free to do what ever I put my mind to once my children leave home

  • Self employment

Challenges

  • Time management

  • Frustration and inability to use computers

  • Theory work on diploma

  • Believing in myself and what knowledge I have already obtained

One of the first thing that I became aware of is how hard it was to acknowledge my weaknesses and what challenges me.

But I also understood that I was in a good place and that I have so many opportunities, more than most.

It struck me that most of my teachers were right that 'If only she would apply herself she could do well'. Thankfully I am now very self-motivated.

I feel that I used more 'Catch' from the 'Catch and Store Energy' principle. The 'Storage' will be more adapted to my Application.

Application
Principles

Using the principles of permaculture to see how my effective my design fits into a natural and harmonious pattern

1, PRODUCE NO WASTE:

  • Using good design in my everyday life, such as a colour coded calendar for my off-site jobs, allows me to keep ahead of my time management and up to date with my different places of work and billing.

  • Understanding time management, i.e. the different times of the year when volunteers are needed, peak holiday seasons for holiday rentals, holidays and time with the kids, harvests, planting seasons etc.

2, CATCH AND STORE ENERGY:

  • Identifying what's most important: putting priories first; such as the needs of my children or the different land based projects

  • Identifying the patterns in my life. School runs, holidays, seasonal planting and harvests, when I need volunteers and when I am better working on my own, the months I feel low and when I feel full of energy

3, OBTAIN A YEILD:

  • What I can achieve from my life and where to share the abundance

  • Make a living in a harmonious way

  • Breed opportunities for my kid free future

4, APPLY SELF-REGULATION AND ACCEPT FEEDBACK:

  • Accepting I am not wonder-woman.

  • Give myself breaks

  • Look around once in a while and acknowledge what I have already achieved.

  • Finish projects before starting new ones.

5, USE AND VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND SERVICES:

  • doing things at the right time (time management)

  • get help when help is needed (Volunteers)

  • Enjoy time with friends and like-minded people, value their friendships, you never know where it might lead you!

6, PRODUCE NO WASTE:

  • With good time management I should be able to apply myself to the tasks at hand and not waste my own time or the time of others

  • Use what I learn to share and help others

  • When working with others be organized and know what they need to do for you.

  • Stop self-deprecation, there are no mistakes just lessons to be learned.

  • Work towards a vision

7, DESIGNING FROM PATTERN TO DETAIL:

  • Identify the pattern of my life so far, what makes me happy? Kids, gardening, parties and gatherings, work? Where do I struggle the most? What do I find easy?

  • Gardening is an passionate obsession, that I can do for hours, but needs to be systematic and productive

  • I have very little pattern to my Job, the detail is that I have to be available for it!

  • Put time into helping the girls with school work

8, INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE:

  • Making time to involve myself into other communities and making new friends

  • Involve guests in the functions of the farm

  • Allowing volunteers into my life and sharing my home and knowledge with them

9, USE SMALL AND SLOW SOLUTIONS:

  • Taking everything one step at a time

  • Learning to finish projects before starting new ones.

  • Appreciate that not everything I do will work and the next time I try something I have learnt from the experience

  • Remember it takes time to grow

10, USE AND VALUE DIVERSITY:

  • Be proud of myself for being able to adapt to many different situation

  • Be versatile; I having a wide range of skill sets

  • Be conscious of my skills; how to apply them and share them with others

11, USE THE EDGE AND VALUE THE MARGINAL:

  • Understanding my boundaries and where can they be expanded

  • Be able to accept different opinions

  • Open myself up to the community around me

12, CREATIVELY USE AND RESPOND TO CHANGE:

  • My life is forever changing.... accept change and work with it

  • Prepare for when the girls are all grown up and have left home

  • Understanding my passions and patterns of life, will help me achieve my visions for the future

Permaculture Ethics

The ethics showed me that the next steps in my life will bring me joy and that I have a fulfilling future that I can be proud to share with others, knowing that what I am doing is respectful to the environment and can help others in the process.

Goals

Understanding my goals using the principles and ethics of permaculture, outlines how to I need to proceed with this design. I would like to look at the ways that I can use the principle 'Catch and Store energy' to see where I can be more productive in the way I use my energy.

  • To understand myself and find a more harmonious attitude and way of thinking: Use and value diversity

  • Find confidence to become a teacher of permaculture: Design from pattern to detail

  • Discover a future for myself when my children leave home: Apply self-regulation and accept Feedback and 'Obtain a yield'

  • Not overworking myself and giving my body and mind time off: Use small and slow solutions

  • Listening to my body when its tired or needing exercise: Produce no waste

  • Obtain a yield from the farm, Eco-tourism, volunteers, work etc.

  • When working on my diploma, gain the ability to store the knowledge I have learn during this process and use it to share with others: Creatively Use and respond to change.

  • Appreciate being able to live this extraordinary life on a little piece of paradise, my knowledge and sense of fulfilment: Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

  • Use my personal growth to be a much more understanding person with my friends, family and any one who I make a connection with: Integrate rather than segregate, Design form pattern to detail, Creatively use and respond to change

  • My continued education: Integrate rather than segregate, Pattern to detail, Creatively use and respond to change

Plan

In looking at myself and my life in this way, I really thought about where I was going in this design. The way I look at life is already harmonious to the environment but not always to myself.

Sometimes I feel that my life is set in stone already. I have to be here for Georgia and school, I also need to work to support us through these times. But my life is always changing constantly but on a slow path. Soon I will have a big change happening in my life when Georgia leaves and I would like to secure a future for myself. Knowing what I would like to do when that time comes is where I need to focus. I have always been interested in travel and would like to do more in the future.

If I can integrate my itchy feet and my skill sets I would like to help communities

in other countries to make better futures for themselves.

Final Objective
  • Get my children through school and started on their own life path PC

  • Earn a living in a renewable way PC, EC, FS

  • Finish my diploma PC

  • Learn how to teach permaculture PC, ES, FS

  • Use my skills to help others PC,FS

  • Teach from home PC

  • Set my land up so that it functions with the minimum of maintenance EC, PC

  • Respond to the changing needs and desires of my life PC

The next step was to make my action learning path way and my first 10 design ideas

Action learning Pathway
Diploma designs first cut

I had great difficulties in trying to decide where I should go with my designs. It is a help and a hindrance to have the amount of land, to do as much as my imagination could possibly handle. I also needed to include at least two non-land based designs into my project. After a lot of thought I finally can up with a plan.

I decided on the next 9 designs which would help me obtain the skills and confidence to guide me in the next big change in my life.

Evaluation

The End Game, or is it just the start?

During the years of my studies; What ways have I observed the changes that permaculture has changed my life and how have I interacted with these changes?

I have learnt a lot during this process, especially about myself; where my values lie and gaining the confidence to bring about my objectives.

Being open and honest with myself was the first hurdle, but when I look back on my life I realised that I had the advantage of freedom to do and achieve what I wanted to do and with stubborn determination would achieve my dreams.

I have documented the last 8 years of my life and it is amazing to look back on what I have achieved. My pathway has been an exciting journey which I feel has only just started. I have grown in optimism and conviction to be in a good position to share my knowledge with other like minded people.

In using the ethics of permaculture I have found a sweet spot in my life: a combination of land regeneration and the happiness and love it brings me. To watch the land grow, mature and develop. Seeing the way in which it manages and grows on its own, bringing an abundance of creatures that were not here before. Watching the way that everything coexists and assisting each other. That nothing ever stays the same; the changes in the environment improve and my interest grows with it. Making me want to share the change with others, not just in the way of showing off but being able to share the surplus yields that grows each year.

A reflection using Bill Mollison's Permaculture principles;

Relative location

My pathway has been an exciting journey which I feel has only just started.

I am proud to say my daughter Fynla, is now on her 3rd year of interior architecture at university and focusing her dissertation is on 'Establishing the co-evolution between humans and the natural environment in the work place though biophilic design'. I am relieved to have had some influence between the iPhone and the handbag!

Georgia has just started secondary school.

They have grown into happy and intelligent young women with respect for others and the world around them.

Efficient energy Planning

There has been a lot of hard work put into the farm, but I spend my energy wisely, and due to this I now get to have low maintenance summers and valuable time to spend with my family.

My time management has worked so well I might even be able to Finish my diploma!!

I still work off-site but with proper organisation I am able to work those jobs as well as manage volunteers giving them projects that they feel confident to do on their own as well as bigger projects that we do together.

Accelerated succession and evolution

My 'Ecotourism Accommodation business' is going so well, that it is fully booked for months in advance. With better communication about how the cabin works within a natural system, I feel happier that the guests I attract want to spend their holidays reducing the impact on the wonderful planet we live on.

All this is managed on a yearly calendar (normally given out free from the builders yard or the vets) for long term arrangements and my agenda, a lined notebook, in which I manually write up two weeks ahead. This allows me to focus on the now and not get ahead of myself. One book of 160 pages normally lasts me about 2 years and has everything in it, (especially helpful to those of us that can't remember what we did the week before!!).

Energy cycling

I have been getting to know and bringing together like-minded people in my local community This was another obstacle that I found hard. I had been putting up a lot of defences to meeting new people but once I got out of my shell, I have enjoyed sharing time, experiences and knowledge.

Diversity

Combining all the goals I wanted to achieve, I have built a strong web of diverse connections. Looking towards a fulfilling future, using the skills I have learnt, the experience I am looking forward in gaining, through teaching permaculture and my love of travel, I would like to help communities in the Developing Nations or refugee settlements to help them make better and more resilient futures for themselves.

Each element preforms many functions

While I have been doing my diploma, my children have been learning a good work ethic from me, they watch me study and understand that education is not only for them but something we take further into our lives.

Using my time effectively has allowed me to take time off for myself, meet new people which have similar interests and in turn had helped me build up a small group of friends that discuss permaculture and land maintenance. We meet about once a month at each participants location where we can see where they might need a little bit of inspiration for the projects they would like to do. In turn they will be my first permaculture students and are very excited for me to finish my diploma.

Volunteers have taught me a lot in how to manage people and the projects we are doing. They have been an essential lesson in self-regulation!

Using biological resources

For me to watch the garden grow empowers me everyday. Plants and trees die which can be upsetting at the time, but then something else grows back in its place or you turn around and there is a plant growing that I had not planted there, but a seed of a plant that I thought had died away in another part of the garden found its niche and adapted to a better environment on it's own. I take a lot of reassurance from this, the seed of knowledge, you might think you have forgotten something but just when the moment is ripe that knowledge breaks though to the surface.

Edge effect

Sometimes I feel like I live on the Edge! But this can be a good thing. When I feel have come to the edge in a point in my life and I am about to topple over, there's aways another edge for me to step onto. Edges are the next step of development and once I have reached the edge of my abilities in one situation, jumped/toppled and survived, I am ready to take the next big step in my emotional growth.

Small scale intensive systems

That's me, small scale but quite intensive! I am only limited by over stretching myself. I have learnt to do things one step at a time, when I am focused on one project till the end, it gets ticked off the list and then the next job, situation or event can be handled with the care and attention it requires. Sometimes this is very hard for me to do, but with practice it is getting easier and I have realized that the things I don't get around to straight away are not always the most important, or their priority comes when it's needed.

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