Saturday, 30 August 2014

Hello Ren

Just a quick post. We had a baby boy last night and we called him Ren. I feel blessed and have fallen in love all over again, not just with him, but all of my beautiful family. Michelle especially has been simply incredible; brave and compassionate. I didn't want to bang on too much in this post, but this is just about the best advice I could impart to him. I hope when he is old enough he will live by it. I try to, but it is sometimes hard. It goes for everyone I know, especially my amazing  daughters. There are many truths here.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence,
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. 
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. 
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy

Max Ehrmann

I hope you like this as much as I do, I think it's a really helpful way of looking at stuff, I'm not a religious man, and personally I think this kicks the lords prayer's ass. Something I was made to recite for large swathes of my childhood. 

Just a quick note – posts might be shorter for the next few weeks, there's a lot going on which is annoying because there is a lot to write about. I'll try and punch through the sleepless nights and continual rocking. Also it is much easier to write comments on here now that my lovely friend Scott has sorted out some glitches, he has also made it easier to read on mobiles, so you can read wherever you like! Accepting feedback and self regulation is important in the permaculture world. I would LOVE as much feedback as possible, especially specific stuff. It helps me hone the ideas I write about. I also have a page on facebook called hisown2feet, please like it, or friend me under mark furmston. It means I can see you guys, which is lovely for me and makes it a two way process.

(Scott, is also the one loading/posting this post for Mark and typing this bit ; ) "hello readers"... and so would like to sneakily congratulate Mark and Michelle… and wish them, the girls and Ren all the happiness in the World! they're certainly adding more than their fair share.) X

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

From Patterns to Details

This is all about seeing the wood for the trees. In a physical project it is imperative to look at how the land behaves in order to carry out any design. The usual stuff, like slopes, species, climate etc... guides a design. These factors should be aiding the sustainability of the design, not fighting it.So when we have a dominant species we should be designing to take advantage of the soil and climatic conditions that species enjoys, as well as the benefits that that species brings, be it the way it interacts with the natural environment or the yield it brings. 

The glamour in permaculture, or self sufficiency is often stuff like hugelkulture, designing guilds, food forests or keeping chickens. Its these ideas that appeal to people because there is a physical, clever way of producing food, and lets face it, if you're that way inclined, its cool and interesting.

But the art of looking for patterns... well that is a bit like the cinderella in the rush for the over made up hugel/herbspiral sister. And it is a rush. I am guilty of doing this. If I look back at my ideas for the back garden and how to design my life, the patterns were ignored in the desire to get things done.

So I start again. Not completely, but as part of a critical analysis of what went before. The beginning is the Survey bit in SADIM (Survey, Analysis, Design, Implement, Maintain). After maintaing the elements I have put into my life, we go full circle. We re-evaluate, accept feedback, we build and tinker.

From the very top. If I was to be allowed a wish list? I would be travelling to all the people and places that inspire me. From Geoff Lawton to Joel Saladin. Ben Falk to Jack Spirko. I would be doing a second 2 week intensive course with Patrick Whitefield, and a 10 week internship with Ridgedale permaculture farm in Sweden. Then I'd come back to Hastings and set up a city farm with an educational growing hub for the unemployed youth of the town, probably receive an OBE, get the freedom of the city (Town) and just schlep around drinking in coffee shops, swimming in the sea and fishing. Oh yeah, and I'd spend the Winter somewhere warm.

That sounds good. Heres the reality. I have a family, I have a mortgage, I have debts. I have a job that requires me to be physically present and doesn't pay holiday. These are all limitations. Some which I wouldn't change, beautiful and charming, some I definitely would. But none the less, they all mean that disappearing to do this stuff is out of the question. This rather stark example shows us that by looking at the patterns, we can ascertain what is and isn't sustainable

When I finished the PDC, one of the first things I did was to volunteer at the community garden. It was good. I met good people and helped a worthy project. It wasn't sustainable because I did it despite having to work every other weekend and losing money we needed as a family. I wouldn't change what I did, but when the garden closed it was a relief as it meant I had more time and money for myself. It wasn't sustainable within my current pattern. 

Now I bring eggs and cucumbers (right now its cucs, next week probably courgettes!)for my neighbours and friends, and i'm getting the same hit from it, without having to volunteer time I haven't got.

And whilst 10 weeks in Sweden at Ridgdale does sound great, I decided to build my learning around my limitations. Cue Michael White, Lucia Stuart and Ben Fairlight Edwards, local(ish) foragers. All with different specialities covering herbalism, sea shore and everything else. It has become clear to me that foraging is definitely a passion, makes me happy and is one solution in feeding ourselves. It also has the effect of curbing to a small extent the limitations of money (food for free as Richard Mabey says) These guys are all amazing by the way – well worth checking out if you are in the area.

I will be getting out on the boats and learning as much as I can about sea fishing from my friend, Russell Field. This should be both social and educational for me, and again, a big step towards free, sustainable, healthy food. Just – got – to – find – the – time! 

The other thing I've been doing is making stuff with the kids. They are naturally predisposed to making potions and lotions, so this summer so far we've pickled gherkins, made bread, salves and oven dried tomatoes. Next up is tomato sauces and quiche. We are all learning. Together, and they seem to like it.

Finally, once it all settles after the arrival of the baby, I will explore the Permaculture diploma with as local as possible tutors. 

The point being that the patterns of my life, at least for now, limit my options. The beauty of those limitations, however, result in a beautiful solution. One that boils down to local learning, deeper connections with local people and the local environment, and one that sates my appetite without taking me away from my family or taking up more of my precious time. In fact, it brings us all together, eating, drinking and enjoying the things we bring into our lives.