Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Resiliency and Community

This journey, what this blog is all about, is an attempt at creating a better lifestyle for myself and my family. I started with a pretty clear idea of what this might look like. I was going to be the guy that could and would do everything. Grow all our food, hunt, fish and extract food from the hedgerows with ease as we walked on the road to a healthier, better lifestyle. An independent, self reliant path. What an ego! But I like the ambition.

If nothing changes though, perhaps nothing is learned.

And loads of things have changed and lessons have been learned along the way. In fact I would say that the biggest changes have been in my thinking about independence, self sufficiency and happiness. I think its normal, at least for idiots like me, to want to do all this stuff. As I've said before, it gives you a degree of resiliency. And who doesn’t want to be more resilient, right?

When we began, creating resiliency was a goal. As we progress, it becomes clear that firstly, resiliency is not an absolute, but rather a sliding value. It is a nuanced idea, and so can't really be a goal as such. Am I resilient to losing my job? My house? Breaking a leg? Dying? I might be a little more resilient to some of this stuff (not dying though) if I grow a percentage of my food, burn firewood, catch fish and understand how not to poison myself with mushrooms. It won't keep us alive in a true disaster, but it saves me money, enables choices, and is probably a better, healthier way to live in a 'normal' situation. So it's a lifestyle choice, right? Pastimes with benefits.

I think I may have mentioned how the arrival of our youngest child has put a strain on any time we've got after sleep and work. Its made it hard to get out there and do much at all in the last year or so, as I said in the 'Ren test' post, you have to understand where the strains are and redesign life accordingly.

This is, it seems where community begins to step in. At least for me. A move from independent and self sufficient to interdependent and collaborative. If this happens with a hard but otherwise healthy baby, imagine how much community becomes important during disaster.....

People have been kind and supportive during this period of time. You get to know who your friends are. From issues with the girls and their schooling (they are doing great by the way thanks), to just simply holding Ren, and letting us eat a good dinner in peace, relax in the back garden. Catching the baby as he climbs out of the buggy (thanks Joe). Even the offers of help which we haven't taken up make a real difference because you know the support is there. Family have stepped in and let us do stuff like have a meal out or attend weddings. Quite simply, no amount of home grown veggies gives you that, right? We all need a break, and a sympathetic ear. Its a matter of sur thrive al versus survival.

Loose barters and favours have definitely kept me going in these months. Months where I can only really do the minimum (work, sleep, hold, work, sleep, hold) have still seen me eating bloody good sauerkrauts and drinking Kombucha despite the fact that I haven’t had the time to ferment anything thanks to the St Leonards Kraut king Scotty Garrett. We get to eat out regularly as a family because of a raw milk barter I have going on. Raw yoghurt and milk also comes our way as part of this. We get fresh eggs and good healthy produce because my work is integrated into my food designs. We have friendly plumbers and friends that happen to be builders. Friends and family, quite simply, rule. Community, more than the desire to do it all yourself, will trump and create true resilience.

So don't get me wrong, I'm off on a herbal forage on Sunday, will be beginning the mushroom season soon, and will definitely be shooting some rabbits as the game season approaches. Its just hard to sell this stuff (as it should be) to your better half when it feels a bit like hell to be left back home with 3 kids for a day while I'm dicking about on a boat. As I've always said, its an incremental process.

So when time unfolds in front of me at some point in the future, I can afford myself the resources needed to forge ahead once again. Independence, and self sufficiency (at least in the strictest sense) however won't necessarily return as a main driver. True resiliency lies in the lap of community, friendship and family. Real progress in creating a better lifestyle for me and my family can only really happen when those around us are involved. Family, St Leonards and Hastings has looked after us this past year, I appreciate that.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Quit or Die

So the Autism work didn't pan out. Bottom line was the fit wasn't right and the time wasn't right. The project felt under resourced and I made a quick decision to try other stuff rather than continue to invest time and energy in a project that didn't suit me.
It's liberating, to be able to make those decisions, and even with my guilt ridden, people pleasing persona, I know it was the right one. But society is riddled with messages like 'winners never quit', 'never give up' etc... which makes these things harder. I prefer the analogy of the fly that never quits trying to fly out of a closed window. It inevitably ends up dead on the windowsill, exhausted from pointless activity. Its a pretty shit way to die – head butting an invisible barrier until you depart this mortal coil from exhaustion. Something like 'quit or die' might be a good way of phrasing it....

We took our kids out of their school the other week because they were not flourishing. It wasn't easy to do so, it's a bit of a wrench to resettle, half of our best friends kids are there and WE were happy, but when the environment is affecting your kid negatively, you have to do something, and it was the right decision for them. As parents you have to trust your instincts and 'Just do it' (Damn those clever marketing departments!). The environment was not allowing her to express herself, and as a result her confidence had been eroded, which is heartbreaking, so she's going elsewhere, where I hope she'll be happier. It's all you can do right? Make the correct decisions at the correct time. Easier said than done, none of it, however, is failure.

I talk about failure a lot – mainly because its practically inevitable if we are to push ourselves to do anything worthwhile, and also because it is something I am very good at. This, however wasn't failure, and it's important to understand the difference between simply giving up, and making the correct decisions for the individual. The idea behind doing the Autism work was to function stack the working week, to get some projects under way with the help and resources of a larger charity organisation. The reality felt very different and perhaps naively, I was surprised by the difference between the hope and the reality.
What was supposed to be a springboard felt more like a bog. When you have 3 demanding children, you don't want to be stuck in a bog. When you don't have 3 children you still don't want to be stuck in a bog, although to be fair, you might have a better chance of getting out.
I look at patterns, especially the natural ones, and take a lesson or two from them. In times of stress, a deciduous tree will drop leaves, and enter full dormancy as winter approaches. Vital functions continue, and the tree is still alive of course, but exposure to the elements is dramatically cut. When it's too hot, too, leaves are dropped to avoid excessive transpiration, and the dormancy period allows the tree to get through the more extreme months.

Its good to know that right? That even a great old Oak has to take a breather. It has to protect itself in order to function, and whilst it does that, everything else goes on hold. It hasn't quit – even though it looks like it has, but instead performing the most natural of functions. SELF PRESERVATION. So I had to leave my blog for a bit, even though I gain a lot of pleasure from it (I do post pictures on facebook when too busy to blog – feel free to friend request). I haven't been able to get drunk to the levels I would like recently, and I certainly have needed to be in attendance for child care. Work, most importantly needs to facilitate life, not the other way around.
And this all becomes more important as we take on board the multitude of species that both rely upon and support each element in an ecosystem. Nothing exists in isolation, without interactions with another element. A mature Oak can support around 284 species of insect and 324 types of lichen. It offers support. Without that support, stuff begins to go a bit wrong, habitats and food disappears. Likewise, if we begin to falter from not listening to the signs around us, so our children begin to suffer, as do friends, family and colleagues – all our relationships. In short we have to be strong to support them. Both mental and physical health rely on our ability to read situations, and if the environment is wrong, we simply can't function as we ought to. We beat ourselves up if something is not quite right. Instead, we should be addressing either how to change the situation, or leave it.
So, like a tree in the wrong place, or at times of stress, things sometimes simply need to be changed. Like a tree, its also good to know what environment galvanises and maximises our health and vitality. Like a fly at a window, things can suffer if we are just taught to keep on keeping on, blindly ignoring signs of stress. By changing our environment, what we do, who we surround ourselves with, we can optimise our lifestyles. By taking a breather, we can carry on. None of it is wrong. None of it is failure.

And you know what they say (now) – if it ain't right – Quit or die.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Going Shopping

I'm going to the shops – Anyone want anything?

20 years ago that meant a shopping list of large rizla, pot noodles and beer. Times move on though. And those heady days are behind me. The little people moved in and took over. Nappies, fruity flakes, and milk. And the kids need stuff too.

The Autism thing didn't work out. The vision of the charity and my own ideas didn't tally. Lack of resources meant that instead of function stacking the working week into a permaculture portfolio, I had instead walked into a scenario that demanded more of me than I had ever imagined.

It was unfortunate. But it was unsustainable. With so much going on at home, work needs to operate smoothly and demand less. Resources like time are always finite and have to be spent effectively. I don't regret making a swift decision. It was a tactical withdrawal. This was not my mountain.

That said, it freed up time to find my next project. I like the permaculture saying 'The problem is the solution.' It got me thinking....

Like most PDC graduates, I obsess on my food. How it's farmed, what it does to me, what the supply chain looks like, who benefits, and how it affects the environment. Like most normal people, I also find myself sheepishly perusing the isles of the local supermarket at the weekend. This diet is only supported in part by the local producer, the home grown and the foraged.

Its a problem because I have no interest in bolstering supermarket profits or industrial agriculture. Its a problem because every pound spent in these places disappears form my local economy. And it happens because I run out of time.

To go to the local Butcher or baker entails time to be spent. All very well unless you have kids, jobs or stuff to do. I get it.
I live it. Every. Day
So I'm going to the shops. And anyone local who wants anything, let me know. The idea here is if I have a big enough shopping list we can make it more efficient. If I have a bunch of shopping to get, and people relying on me, it'll get done. If its a large enough order, we can get the producer to help with the process.

I'm starting with my favourite butchers. Park Farm of Hawkhurst. A quality Farm, and a quality Butcher. It uses a local abattoir, and they specialise in grass fed and free range livestock, which makes it a far healthier product . Andy the farmer just had a conversation with me with regards to the way the herds are managed. You obviously wouldn't get that at tescos, and he is open to groups coming to the farm. As far as I can make out, its the best in our area. By using these suppliers, not only is the meat going to be a better quality, but the money stays in the local area, and good practice is rewarded.

So if you have the same problem I've got, this might be the solution.

I'll be driving out every Thursday from now on. If anyone wants anything picked up, drop me a text, email or DM me on facebook. I can get prices before I go if you give me notice.

This is one way to wrestle back power from the large shops and poor food production. By acting more directly, we can empower our food producers, have more control into how our meat is reared, and create more resilience in our whole food system. Its up to us. The large producers and Supermarkets do not share our values.

Now – who wants anything?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Stacking functions: Making stuff happen

Its never felt so tough. Ren has pushed us to the limit and on top of being sick more times in the last month than I have been in the previous 24, forgetting my pin number (Never done that before) and being generally doo-lally, the only spare bits of time after sleeping and working are between the hours of 5 and 7, both ends of the day, only differentiated by the choice of refreshment (coffee or wine, breakfast or dinner). This time generally consists of holding the boy, whilst in reciprocation he generally screams at me. I am, quite literally exhausted. Michelle is worse. I feel like I have been taken prisoner by a tyrant. To make matters worse he is very charming in public, and generally, of course, nobody really believes me.

I looked up Stockholm syndrome on wikipedia. It says this:

Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other”


But I love him, so I need to think a bit differently to get anything done.

Here's some cool thinking; Each function must have more than one element, and each element must have more than one function. A shed should not only house the bikes, but should also collect rainwater, support a plant or two, maybe collect some solar power whilst it's at it. 'Function stacking' is a method of realising these principles, and a great example of function stacking in the physical design process is forest gardening.

Forest gardening takes advantage of all spaces to maximise yields by mimicking, surprise, surprise, a forest system. The concept of seven layers (canopy, sub canopy, shrub layer, herbacious layer, ground cover layer, climbers, and roots) are first recognised and then utilised to maximise the use of a limited space. By including these layers, we obtain a yield from multiple elements. Mimicking the forest system to create symbiotic, perennial systems that mature and thus limit maintanence and the need for intervention. I've started this process, albeit on a small scale in the back garden. Using perennial herbs (comfrey, sage, lovage, rosemary), dwarf trees (apples and pears), fruit bushes (Blackcurrants, redcurrants, goji berries) and perennial veg such as artichokes. The hope being that a degree of neglect won't kill them but the synergies and cooperative elements of the system will make them stronger over time. (Minimum inputs, maximum outputs (which, funnily enough tends to be the exact opposite of having a baby!)

If you've read most of the posts on this blog, you'll know by now that I regard the use of permaculture in lifestyle design as importantly as any physical design, and the lessons we learn from using these principles physically can almost always be transferred to social and economic designs. Function stacking is one of those simple ideas. When you have limiting factors, like time, or money or space, like we all have, function stacking becomes the ideal path to follow to maximise yields.
So when I look at my own limiting factors – a lack of time or money then function stacking to maximise the resources I do have becomes another way of enriching my life. I was offered the opportunity to work with the local autism group this year. To build and maintain some gardens, to grow food and sensory aspects through the use of permaculture and its various methods. It was an opportunity for me to function stack my work schedule. Whilst I always seek interesting projects, this was the first that offered me the opportunity to be paid and make inroads into the community work I want to undertake, and start the Permaculture diploma I really want to get going on. The diploma which requires spare time I simply don't have. The opportunity to work within a group, the fact that the work will be recorded by somebody more organised and capable than me only makes it a more tempting offer.
I already regard some of my work as function stacked. I collect eggs, firewood and produce from work (In leiu of holiday and pension). The ongoing focus of this process is to install as many of my permaculture aspirations into my paid work as possible.
A few months back I received an email telling me that this was all common sense, I think they were being derogitory, but they were right, permaculture really is just that. Its one of the reasons it can be so life changing for students and practioners. As far as I'm concerned there really is nothing better. Common sense, joined up thinking, design – it is possibly the thing we need most to dig us out of our collective hole. And Function stacking – killing two birds with one stone is so common sense. It really works when resources are dwindling, and it makes stuff more effective, productive and resiliant when resources are plentiful. So whilst I look at the ever lengthening list of the things I need or want to do; all the courses, the planting, the building and look down at the little fella, at least I know he has driven me in this direction, a more efficient use of the time I have left over. I guess thats one thing I can thank him for, that and all the free labour he'll be doing in sixteen years time.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Its all gone fermental!

I started back on the fermenting this weekend, with a session with Scotty G – one straight red cabbage and one mix of white cabbage, onion, carrot and garlic. Its got to be one of the easiest things in the world to do, and what with having a mate that likes doing the same sort of stuff, we've managed to make it into a bit of a social too (permaculture principle – each element has two or more functions). I like the aftermath. Listening to these mason jars whining and fizzing away as bacterial life begins to 'happen' – it's kind of immense in these days of sterile, homogenised food production that these little jars are bucking the trend. Shell keeps telling me I should do something about my guts – not sure if upping my intake of these bad boys is going to change things. I guess its a matter of eat it and see.....

So, while I aim to at least rebalance my food intake, my sights rest on another unhealthy consumption in my life. It can make me feel lethargic, hopeless, anxious and worried. It fucks with my mind, and renders me, often apoplectic with rage. Rolling news.

The aftermath of the Paris massacres have been strewn with opinion and debate – and what happened was of course horrendous, as are the stories from any terrorist activity anywhere at any time. I watch now, however, and shudder at how misinformed at best, how manipulative at worst the news machine is. Seeing Steve Emerson on Fox News say that the UK's 2nd city is a Muslim only, no go area, would have been funny if it wasn't so serious. People are gonna take that 'information' seriously. This in turn forms public opinion, which politicians and media will pander to in order to be re-elected, and entrench their positions. Forget life imitating art, lets look at mass media forming public opinion. And before we go on by the way, the most likely thing to happen on a visit to Birmingham, UK is you'll get a great chicken Balti – it ain’t the new Fallujah.

The only thing that will come of these latest terrorist attacks will be the further erosion of civil liberties. If we look at the NSA, phone tapping scandals and identity card schemes, our great leaders are hardly without form. It is something that government is keen on as gives even more control, and power to the elites, which includes those at the top in the media. The inevitable horror that follows our misadventures in the Middle East simply solidifies and entrenches the belief that we need to carry on as we are. A bit of terrorism on mainland Europe suits government. We'll be begging for further security measures here, and further interaction over there, and it seems to me, the spiral of death and destruction will simply continue, along with the fringe benefits. Put simply, most Muslims aren't psychopaths, most politicians and media corporation owners are.

So fear, and the way the news spreads it through sensationalism and sheer volume will always push it's own agenda, what suits the elites, owners and stakeholders. We are given opinion everyday from a completely skewed angle, and it only reinforces a designed viewpoint. Unfortunately those that do the pushing of these agendas appear to be tyrants and lunatics themselves, the disenfranchised and weak suffer for their ambitions. The 'story' is written by those in power and gives the disenfranchised and the desperate a hymn sheet to sing from, a hopeless purpose and one that keeps this whole circus going.

So, I'll try not to ponder on this stuff too long, and instead I'll let you know how the ferments go. The purple one is really making a racket, and a mess as the life forming within pushes forth. In the meantime, I'll turn that news off, or at least select my news sources as carefully as possible. Who knows, maybe a diet of less nonsense and more joy will help my mind as much as these jars of kraut help my gut. I think Shell just wants me to stop farting so much...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Empowerment and 2015

Well I'm sorry about the last few months of silence. It appears that the 'Ren test' was harder than I thought and getting stuff done with a new baby, 2 other sprogs and a new student settling in does impact after all.....

Well it certainly impacts this. Sitting down, reflecting, writing something legible and readable and collecting my thoughts, adventures and aspirations. Its therapy for me, it just takes time I haven't always got. Bit of a catch 22, that.

I have been doing stuff though, mainly holding the baby, changing nappies and going to bed as early as we can. Other than that fermenting, hunting and foraging to some extent have all been squeezed in since I last wrote on here, and it all feels pretty life changing.

My first kill, prep and cook of a bird makes me look at things very differently. I wasn't sure if I could do it if I'm being honest. I'm squeamish with blood and guts and never thought I'd take to hunting. Quite frankly I struggle to watch Casualty, let alone undertake basic butchery....

Pigeon sandwich with sauerkraut on the side!
It was something I wanted to do to see if I could do it, to see if it'd turn me vegetarian, whether I could cope with taking life to feed me and my family. I never had a moral issue with it. As a meat eater it seems to me that to shoot a bird out of the sky, one that was never farmed, taken to an abattoir or kept in captivity. One that quite literally didn't know what hit it, seems to me to be the kindest way to eat meat. The prep, (plucking, and cutting out the meat) was not as hard as I'd thought as there was no gutting involved. That will be another time, when rabbits and ducks are on the menu. But this was a great start for me and it tasted bloody lovely. So shotguns and Wood pigeons turn out to be something I actually enjoy. Who'd have thought?

Me and blogger Scott went on a fermentation workshop the other day. I didn't know much about it before the session, but it turned out to be pretty cool stuff. Held at the local Vegan cafe, a guy from Octopus workshops giving us the low down on the history and uses of fermentation, and as Scott mentions on his blog – it kind of got a bit political, which always goes down well with me , a spot of radical, subversive sauerkraut production! It turns out to be quick and easy too – not too much messing around with sterilising which is definitely a weakness of mine (I'm just not a clean freak). A bit of pink himalayan salt, an organic cabbage and you're away. Anyhow, the kraut I made tasted pretty good – Scott's been running with it a bit more so I'm going to get him to disseminate some of his new found wisdom when he gets a chance. It seems to be heavily linked with Eastern ideas of health and the gut, the fact that we need a good population of bacteria to operate effectively . I love this thinking. It seems to make sense, and it fits in with using food as medicine, a preventative approach vs curing symptoms. Something that links heavily into eating natural foods, herbs and spices and home grown produce. Taking it further into the territories of fermentation, preservation and herbalism will only help energy levels and health.
Foraged mushrooms - Brede High Woods

And Foraging with the local mushroom man, Geoff Dann and the chefs of Hastings and St Leonard's. Winter Chanterelles, Amethyst and Birch Boletus all gathered from local woods. Hunting for mushrooms in a wood incorporates so much. The fact that mycellium links with the roots of specific tree species, the way that brush can encourage a flush of growth or aspect can affect the fruiting. It is an enormous subject, and as with the other two activities, you've got to look at it with a lifelong learning hat on. The more we do this stuff, it seems, the more we realise we don't know.

And that's the thing, as I'm on this course of gaining life skills like foraging, hunting, or fermenting, two things become clearer to me. One is a realisation that this is truly a lifelong learning experience – that nature harbours so many intricacies and surprises it would be foolish to ever declare yourself an expert or master . The eternal student, constantly engaging with mother nature, learning to ask the right questions, learning to critically think because the subject matter is eternally vast. It becomes not about knowing every single species, but instead reading the forest floor, or treating each batch of fermenting cabbage as its own little universe, rather than running to recipes. Its a bit 'out there' but if we look at the natural world as our spiritual environment, then we perhaps can begin to have a conversation with it, and develop understanding. It sounds a bit like the 1st permaculture principle – 'Observe and interact' – funny how that one keeps popping up eh?

And then – almost perversely, once you get to grips with the fact you'll never fully master it all, this on going conversation, the other realisation becomes a sense of empowerment. I know I can, at least to some extent shoot, grow and gather my own food. I can prepare food that is good for body and mind, and because of the life skills I am building, I can begin to look after myself and my family more effectively without relying so heavily on questionable external, human created systems.
To feel disempowered can create anxiety, stress and unhappiness. I know because I have suffered for years.  This blog - the adventures I'm going on and the people who I meet as a result begin to help me make sense of the world. Its a long slog, and I'm right at the beginning of my journey but I've never been happier or more motivated. Last year was a crazy ride – thanks 2014, its really been a ball.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

'Ren Test' - Babies and Permaculture

I have invented, no created, quite literally, a new test. Conceived in late 2013 and launched about a month ago, it is unforgiving, incessent, and highlights problems and weaknesses in any design. It will weadle out anything that would fail in times of hardship, and it subjects every aspect of my lifesytyle to a stern examination. He is 4 weeks old and never stops. It appears that we make beautiful and well behaved children and terrible, unforgiving babies.

I had a load of posts lines up for this update, but this  'little bundle of joy' has reduced me to a jibbering wreck on a number of occasions, so this is about how a seismic event can change stuff, whatever it is, and a true test of permaculture design.

Permaculture is full of sects and groups ranging from yoga vegan hippies to survivalist hunting gun nuts. The ethics mean that you have to care about other people, the planet and not being a greedy shit, but after that, as far as I'm concerned its predominantly a set of principles, techniques and ideas to hang a design on.  its the art of clever design, both virtual and physical which aims to go beyond sustainable and into the realms of regenerational. The cleverest of designs aim to make the designer obsolete, producing maximum outputs with minimum inputs. A baby should not blow my designs off course.

Its a bit grand to suggest I'll reach this stage after 1 busy year. It's a lifetimes work, full of incremental change, but as a benchmark,  the 'Ren test' shows me how far away I am from my goals. 

I have to admit I was feeling a bit pleased with myself in the run up to the baby. The lifestyle changes I was putting in place were beginning to feel normalised, I was getting out to do my foraging and at least a bit of fishing, as well as getting stuff done in the house and the garden. We were eating well, and life was good. Its all interesting, and I will write it all up. When he stops screaming, and thats the situation, as lovely as he is, if I were a car, I was 5th gear and cruising, it now feels as if someone stuck a potato up the exhaust and poured sugar in the tank.I feel like the engine just blew up. 

Now dont get me wrong, I'm not moaning ( maybe a bit! ) and I wouldnt change anything (apart from the screaming! ) but what Ren has done in all his baby glory is subjected our lives to a stress test. The beautiful thing about this particular stress test is that rather than a major illness, or losing a job, or a natural disaster, it will pass, it's wanted, and it'll get better. It has highlighted the glitches in our lifestyle design though. As much as parts of the garden will get stronger and more productive over the years, pots and troughs, neglected for even a week in a hot dry Septmember will flop and fail without irrigation or better planning. A workload  that relies on me being out of the door by 7 and back by 7 are unfair on everyone, mainly Michelle, and being unable to take holiday easily means that even if I dont actually fall over one day, I feel like I might.

None of us are Superman, we have to be able to listen to ourselves in order to facilitate others needs. I have learned that my workload was too much. My inputs in this lifestyle design were unsustainable. I have had to relieve myself of a couple of the smaller jobs I do simply because the working day was too long ( I am now jiggling a baby at 7.30 in the morning rather than being on a job ). It was nice to take the money, but sometimes it just isnt worth it. The thing is, I'm not getting any younger, and to blindly continue physically working is short sighted, and definitely not sustainable. So hand in hand with lightening the physical workload has to come another income stream. This includes a lodger, which is a method of extracting an income from the house, our major expense. It also means further concentrating efforts on design and permaculture for clients, a more cerebral approach to making an income.

The garden, because of Ren has been subjected to neglect. Whilst this isn't perfect, in many ways it is helpful. Everything that has struggled, been eaten or suffered from pest and disease has to go onto a re-examination list. I need stuff out there that thrives without pampering. 

It looks like the fruit trees, artichokes, tomatoes and many herbs. might stay. Strawberries and  potatoes in pots  didn't do so well. Yields were low, but I might have some plans – watch this space, we will be constantly reviewing and there is more than one way to skin a cat. Slugs and snails have a lot of fun out there. Hand picking and dispatching is the only way of really controlling them ethically in my experience. It will be a major project next year to research, and select edibles and medicinals which are not of any interest to the critters. Lessons here can be learned from self seeders, wilder foods, maybe, and whisper it, even weeds!

And whilst I am sooo in love with all my family, and I get so much out of them, I was also gaining a lot from foraging forays, fishing trips and my permaculture adventures. This can't happen for the next couple of months. For now, everything needs to be reigned in. Even further!

Learning needs to be done as a family activity. This will most likely be youtube, TV, book and kitchen based. The kids like the cooking, and lotions and potions are always learning experiences. Any forays further afield will have to be built into the working week. It boils down to money, time and my own sanity! A tricky equation, but one I'm sure we can square.

A contraction of work should also allow me to reflect better and make better decisions. It has become clear to me that reflection is incredibly key to making sensible decisions. Ploughing on regardless in the way we are encouraged to do by societal pressure is often the wrong thing to do. Exhaustion leads to frustration and is only bad for the soul. When we look at things cyclically, taking in different events that change our situations, the adjustments we incrementally make, especially when they are concious decisions are actually empowering because YOU decided what to do, and YOU took responsibility. If those decisions help your systems and subsequent lifestyle then they begin to feed back in and make things easier in the longer term even if right now feels hard. So the thing is that we can all learn from unexpected changes in our plans, and the solutions are all there, we just have to learn to see them, and permaculture design with a little imagination enables that.

For Ren,
Please stop crying now......