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.