A Peachy Project

As regular readers know, two and a half years ago we had the limery built – a growing space attached to the house and used to grow limes, as well as lots of other food and decorative plants. It has been a delight in the past year to hear about the progress of a similar project from my friend Ann. I thought, therefore, that you too might enjoy reading about it.

I first encountered Ann through permaculture activities (in fact I met her on-line ages before I finally got to meet her in person). She approached her project from a clear permaculture design perspective as it’s part of the set of her designs for her permaculture diploma portfolio. Ann and her partner Steve are mediaeval re-enactors and have lots of gear that they use when they go to re-enactment events, including this beautiful tent, which is big enough to accommodate a wooden-framed double bed in the “back room” and still provide living and work space at the front:

'17 Haddon Hall-20

now, that’s a tent

Anyway. I thought you’d enjoy hearing from Ann about it all, so over to her…

The Story of the Peach House

So we needed more space. Ideally some way that did not involve lumping heavy re-enactment gear up and down stairs every month (we’re not getting any younger), and that would give added benefits.

As part of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture I am steadily working my way through 10 designs to show that I understand it all. One of these designs looks at our whole system – house, garden, hobbies etc. This uncovered various functions that we would like to be filled. We needed somewhere to grow peppers and a nectarine (the greenhouse is rather cold). Somewhere close by to store a bit of extra wood for the wood burner, an undercover clothes drying space, somewhere nice to sit on a sunny day are on our wish list, to name but a few.

Various options (elements) were listed for the functions needed.2017-12-05 (3)

Our first thought was an extension on the side of the house incorporating a porch linked to the front door, as this would answer most of our needs. However, the first builder we asked directed us to local building regs that would most likely prevent us building to our boundary, or forward of the front line of the house, which meant that joining a porch to the extension would not be possible. Yes we could apply for planning permission, but there were other issues with the boundary and stability of the ground so we reluctantly abandoned that idea.

We then used another tool used in Permaculture designs, a PNI (Positive, Negative & Interesting) to look at the alternatives. Then using one of my favourite tools, McHarg’s Exclusion*, to eliminate the ones that would not work for us.2017-12-05 (4)

We are now the proud owners of the smallest and cutest little conservatory that our lovely builder Spencer has ever built. BTW, this is a different builder to the one mentioned above, who wasn’t at all interested in building the conservatory for us as he felt we would regret it. Eh? Not his problem!!! And no, we don’t regret it, it’s a lovely space.

Peach House

The Peach House. Named by the lovely Snail of Happiness. We don’t have limes, but did have a nectarine – hence ‘The Peach House’. Sadly said nectarine has since died, but the name has stuck.

So here it is. Office, craft room, green house (extends food growing and somewhere for tender plants over winter), wood store, clothes drying space, re-enactment gear store (that also performs as shelf space), bird and hoggie food store, relaxation space, insulation for patio and back doors, extra security, adds value to house.

An added bonus is that in the summer heat it shields the patio door like sunglasses (special glass in the roof) so the lounge is kept cooler with all the doors open. Previously we had to choose – if we wanted the breeze when the curtains had to be open. That let the sun in too! Now we can have the doors and curtains open! Sorted!

Eco choices

Yes, we would have loved wood. The best wood is, I gather, accoya, a sustainable wood that has been impregnated with chemicals to stop it rotting. Made into conservatories in Poland (in the case of the supplier we approached). So overall not really that much better than UK made PVC. In the end we chose PVC as wood would have stretched our budget too far.

However we did choose local trades people and a local window manufacturer.

We couldn’t have recycled materials for various reasons, so did our best to recycle the waste.

  • The displaced slabs were used in a customer’s garden.
  • The vent pipes under floor was left over guttering.
  • We save all the water
  • The skip on the drive – Spencer put things in it and we kept taking them out!
  • We saved – sand, gravel, half a bag cement, old block pavers, nicely algaed ridge tiles, some slate, 2 garden gates, half a fence panel, oddments of wood and an interesting looking cast iron gutter hopper.
  • Any left over cement went onto a path we want raising up, so it wasn’t wasted.
  • Tiles for the floor came off ebay.

One last thing. We kept finding these….

Spencer….

Spencer was here…..

-oOo-

* Sue over at Going Batty in Wales wrote an interesting post about using this approach to decide on her new flooring.

Three Things Thursday: 19 October 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First,  a bit of yarn storming. Welsh cob and adjacent bench in Aberaeron. Complete with strategically placed pompoms!

Second, sending a gift (I didn’t have to sit on this one!)

17 RCKs 10

I hope this will make the recipient smile too

Third, cheese… lots of cheese… that we made!

So, that’s what’s making me happy this week. How about you?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Trying times

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an early jute prototype

Ages ago I wrote a pattern for my crochet bird roosts. The plan was to sell both the pattern alone and kits with all the necessary materials in. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan… my testers never got back to me with comments about the pattern, and then the supplier of the jute twine that I used during the design process went out of business. In a fit of gloom I put it all to one side.

Some months later I tried to source an equivalent twine, but didn’t have much luck, although I did buy some (unseen and, as it turned out not entirely suitable) from a British manufacturer – I really needed a local supplier who I could visit to allow me to see and feel the different types or a more distant supplier who was prepared to send me samples. I’ve had no luck on either count. However, recently Danielle from The Make It Shop offered to test the pattern for me and, as a result of chatting to her, I decided it might be worthwhile to try making a version in wool for subsequent felting.

IMGP9599

trials and tests (note empty wine glass in the background!)

And so, over the past week I’ve been playing around with different designs and different wool yarns plus the new jute. Some of the wool I tried refuses to felt, some of my trials have ended up silly shapes, and some are promising, the new jute was so thick it turned into an extra-large roost. We’ve found a few mistakes in the pattern and a few places where the instructions were unclear. However, progress is being made and I’m hoping that in the not too distant future the pattern will be finalised and at least a woolly feltable version of the kit will be available. My desire to use British fibres as much as possible isn’t helping and I’m sick of doing internet searches for twine, so I’m planning to brave some real shops/garden centres in an attempt to locate some twine of the right gauge.

So, I’m just off to crochet yet another bird house… I’ll be glad when I can get back to my skeleton hat pattern write-up!

Laughing my socks off

I have just returned from a few days in Devon with a small group of people who are all working towards gaining their diplomas in applied permaculture design. It was billed as a ‘support event’, which sounds like a potentially rather dull way to spend a weekend. However, nothing could have been further from the truth… I have not laughed so much for ages.

We laughed until we cried, we laughed until we were incoherent, sometimes we laughed because we were incoherent, we laughed over breakfast, lunch and dinner and late into the night. They say that laughter is the best medicine, and I think it might be addictive.

It sounds like an enjoyable way to spend some time but not very productive. The funny* thing is, though, that I have come back home inspired and with a significant amount of work done on my diploma portfolio. I did some work on my waste of space design, including a base map and an overlay for my year 1 planting along with some notes about this design. However, the most useful part of the weekend in terms of taking my portfolio forward was a discussion about my business plan.

A sock too far - no more knitting for nothing, it's my business

A sock too far – no more knitting for nothing, it’s my business

I want to generate a small income from making things. My original plan was to make and sell my knitted snails and other permaculture teaching tools, but that has rather stalled over the months and my interest has grown in items like the bath puffs and other items with a wider potential market. As a result of all the discussions, I have started to see first, that I don’t at the moment want to concentrate on teaching tools and, second, that I’ve had the wrong attitude to my creations. For example, until now, I have had a tendency to say ‘yes’ when people ask me to make something for them, even when they don’t offer to pay. I am currently knitting two pairs of socks for a friend (total knitting time about 40 hours)… and in exchange they will be very grateful and cook me dinner. It’s not exactly a fair exchange if crafting is to be my business and so it has to stop… it is a sock too far! So, the current project will be finished and handed over, and then the business will commence. I will begin by building up a stock and I will plan to sell that stock at an event… perhaps a Christmas fair.

My very wise friend Snuffkin (who was there over the weekend) has suggested what I say next time someone asks me to make something for them. She wrote to me just this morning:

I’ve just thought of the answer that isn’t ‘no’! It’s ‘yes of course I will, and they’ll be available for you to buy at **** Christmas Fayre so start saving your pennies’ !!!!!!!

Thank you Snuffkin… I can now relax about making things and I can complete my business design, start making my stock and head towards both an event and an etsy shop.

So, next time you’re stuck for a way forward, get together with some people you have something in common with and have a good laugh!

-oOo-

* Yes, the pun was intended… there were lots of those over the weekend too thanks to Corky who has a sort of punning Tourette’s syndrome!

Get creative!

In permaculture you often hear people say that ‘every problem is a solution’. Sometimes they are hard to find, but when we do find a way to turn problems on their head, the result can be beyond our wildest dreams.

I have an example of this from my family – a story that I have known since I was a little girl and that I’d like to share with you.:

My great auntie was born in 1899 (although she told everyone it was 1900!) to a working class family in Stoke-on-Trent. In those days the main jobs in the area were either in the coal mines or the potteries. and girls did not work down the mines. As a result, many female members of my family went off to be paintresses, decorating the pottery by hand, copying specific designs (these were the days before the widespread use of transfers). And so, off my auntie went to work in the potteries, eventually ending up with a company called A J Wilkinson. As with many other potteries, this one had piles of ‘seconds’ pottery that had little value. Because of her artistic talent my auntie was given the chance to decorate some of these ‘waste’ pots, which she did with bright colours and distinctive designs. Much to everyone’s surprise, buyers were found and demand grew. Eventually new pots had to be made and designed and thus a viable business grew from using up what was once considered waste. In fact it was so successful that you may have heard of her… her name was Clarice Cliff.

A Crocus pattern pot

A Crocus pattern pot

A waste of space

The end of our house; our neighbour’s pink house overlooks this area

We live in a cul-de-sac… near the end. This means that our plot of land is a funny shape. Not triangular, but much wider behind the house than in front of it. The house is oblong, the rear garden extends along the back and down either side, we park the car in front and then there’s this strange bit of space to the left as you look at the house that is tarmaced, but not where the car goes and outside the garden and overlooked by our next door neighbours. We have lived here for more than 10 years and in all that time the only thing that we have ever done with this small area is store things… usually things like rubble or building materials.

Sunshine and shade and access into the garden

This, however, is changing. In order to optimise the use of our land, I want this area to be productive. It is at the northeast corner of the house and is in the shade some of the day, but it does get sunshine first thing and as the afternoon progresses. I really didn’t fancy removing the tarmac, so for the time being it is going to be used for container growing. The first crop that we have installed is potato… in bags filled with lovely homemade compost. These were started off in the greenhouse to give them an early boost, but now they are outdoors fending for themselves. The chickens like potato tops, so having them in the main part of the garden would have required some sort of barrier to be constructed around them… but putting them in our dead space means they are protected from hungry beaks – a win-win situation. Also they are just two metres from the IBC, so watering will be a doddle. HURRAH!

We’ve got bags of potatoes!

There is plenty of space round there, as it turns out and so then next things I’m going to put there are two large pots of mangetout because they can make use of the vertical space too, growing up the fence. They haven’t germinated yet, but they are in their pots in the greenhouse, so fingers crossed. And finally this year I am going to make use of one of those dumpy bags we have been saving because they ‘might be useful for something’ (our whole house is full of stuff that ‘might be useful’). If you don’t know, dumpy bags are those big sacks that building material arrives in – sand, soil, gravel, wood chips… the builders merchants won’t take them back, so you end up accumulating them. They are amazingly strong and we have cut them up to use as weed-proofing under the paths between the raised beds, but we don’t need any more for that purpose. So, I am going to fill one of them as much as I can with compost (I might be able to manage a depth of 25cm) and try growing squashes in it… that way I can empty the two compost bins that I would normally leave a bit longer to finish rotting down, since squashes like a compost heap to grow in. I’ll put it in the spot that gets the maximum amount of sunshine and hopefully I will have created yet another productive growing space.

I have a cunning plan…

… a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel (thanks Blackadder)… at least I don’t have it yet, but I will one day.

And what is my plan for? Well, everything really – I am hoping to have a mosaic of permaculture designs to apply to various aspects of my (sustainable) life and, together they will constitute my PLAN.

I told a friend this a while ago and the response was ‘permaculture is gardening fascism’! Well, not the variety that I have encountered. To me permaculture is whole systems design – emulating patterns from nature in human systems to make them efficient and self-sustaining. This appeals to me because, by training, I’m an ecologist – I have a PhD in land reclamation, which involved studying the re-creation of vegetation systems on restored open cast coal sites. I am fascinated by looking at natural relationships and seeing how these can be applied to physical and social systems created by people. For me, the easiest way to think about this sort of design is in my garden, because I understand the value and function of things like soil structure, micro-organisms, micro-climate, water, pollinators, decomposers and vegetation. But I am increasingly intrigued about how I can apply systems-level thinking to other aspects of my life: starting a new business, working with other people, designing a course for adult learners…

Now, I have to confess that I work best when there are targets and deadlines and a ‘reward’ at the end. All of my working life these days involves relatively short tasks that I am paid for. So when I edit a scientific paper, I know that the ‘reward’ will be a payment of £XX and that the work will be completed in just a few days. Perfect for me. However, planning my life doesn’t involve specific deadlines and prompt payback (well, it might, but only in certain circumstances) so I needed to find an approach that would help me to get on and make plans. I have, therefore, taken the plunge and registered to do a Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design… this requires me to produce 10 permaculture-based designs over the next two years. I have a tutor to guide me, but I can choose whatever designs I like; so, I’m going to take the opportunity to focus on various aspects of my life and actually come up with some real plans… rather than just vaguely thinking about ‘stuff’ as I seem to have been doing over recent years. This may not be the way forward for lots of people, but it’s ideal for me – a structure, with a reward at the end (I love qualifications… I have loads of them!) and some support along the way.

I had my first tutorial last week – it was great – and I drafted the first version of my first design over the weekend – that was fun too. I think that I am probably a learning junkie!

So many interesting ideas out there

Sometimes I find all the information out there about sustainability overwhelming – it’s difficult to sift through what’s relevant and what’s not. However, I’m always sure that the things Mark Waghorn posts on his blog will be worth a look and will include lovely pictures. I suggest you check it out: Off-grid design

Oh, and he successfully completed our Permaculture Design Certificate recently, so he’s a good guy!

First steps

Welcome to my blog… a record of my small steps towards a more sustainable life, through thoughtful design…

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