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...... 

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