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 was here…..


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

Wellies, yarn and shampoo…

Looby’s blog

I’m rather spoiled for choice about what to post today, but since it has just appeared, I’m going to direct you to a guest post that I wrote a few weeks ago for another blog. It’s entitled Wellies, yarn and shampoo – my diploma journey with Looby and it’s about my experiences of studying for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. Although much of what I have written about here as The Snail of Happiness has been inspired by my diploma, I haven’t gone into details of the process and so if you are interested, follow the link and you’ll get a taste of what I’ve been up to over the past two and a half years.

Looby was my tutor and when I finished my diploma we agreed that we would each write a guest post for the other’s blog. You’ll have to wait until the new year to hear from Looby here, but if you are interested in permaculture, you should enjoy browsing her blog.

Receiving my award

Receiving my diploma from Looby in September

The Masterpiece Displayed

So, Saturday was the day when the masterpiece blanket finally got to be a very public manifestation of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. All those squares from across Britain and all over the world were on show at Gilwell Park in Epping Forest, London as I gave my final presentation before receiving my diploma at the UK Permaculture Convergence. Whilst other people choose to use Powerpoint or Prezi on a computer, or have a slide show, I decided to be low tech, but high impact and take my blanket. The main question was how to display it.

When I discovered that I was to give my talk in a marquee, I knew that my initial idea would work, namely to hang it from a washing line so it was easy for everyone to see. The joy of a marquee is that there are lots of struts to fasten your washing line to, allowing perfect positioning. Two very kind people – Katie and Nigel – actually put the line up for me, helped adjust it, and then ran around finding some yarn so that we could tie the bottom to a couple of chairs to ensure it was all visible and didn’t flap about. The result wasn’t bad considering the Heath-Robinson nature of the endeavour:

The Masterpiece in all its glory (picture: Alan Charlton)

The Masterpiece in all its glory (picture: Alan Charlton)

The feedback I received about my talk was that it went well and that the audience enjoyed it – there were lots of questions and a great deal of interest afterwards. My dear friend Alan Charlton kindly took some lovely photographs and you can see that I got quite animated:

So, all-in-all a real success, culminating in me receiving my diploma certificate from my tutor Looby Macnamara:

Receiving my award

Receiving my award (picture: Katie Shepherd)

Especial thanks to all of you out there who contributed… a role of honour to follow later.


HURRAH! In the past few days I’ve received the paperwork confirming that I have passed my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design and I’ve completed my masterpiece blanket, which illustrates my diploma journey.

I promise that I will now update the masterpiece pages here on the blog and on Pinterest. I also plan to create a more user-friendly way of looking at all the squares and reading their stories… watch this space!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the blanket – yarn, squares, support, ideas – without you all it wouldn’t have been possible.

And still they come…

My diploma portfolio and the masterpiece

My diploma portfolio and the masterpiece

You will have noticed that I have been very remiss in keeping you updated about the masterpiece… it’s not been forgotten, I’ve just had to concentrate on completing the written portfolio for my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, which the masterpiece is a physical representation of. I’m pleased to report now, however, that the writing is nearly complete and, aside from some checking of details, my portfolio is nearly ready to submit – hurrah! There it is on the left, laid out on the masterpiece with some accompanying, as yet unincorporated, squares. I’ve made a cover for each design that features the square I created to represent it and I’m very happy with the result. You can also see my tree of life – made of words!

A new snail

A new snail

As you will notice, though, there is quite a pile of squares that haven’t yet made it into the blanket. Because of this delay, I have been able to continue accepting squares, which means, for example, that I was given a completely unexpected snail square on Saturday. In fact, this square was really destined for the community craft project I started at Denmark Farm (more details here), but I fell in love with it and Lindsay kindly gave it to me for the masterpiece. I really love the fact that she did free-form crochet, starting in the centre of the snail shell and working from there.

There are at least three more squares already made, but not yet with me, so if anyone is reading about this for the first time and feels like contributing, there is still time. Or anyone who thought they’d like to contribute, but missed getting a square to me by my original deadline. In fact, I’m going to need at least six more squares.  I’ll make them myself to finish things off, but contributions would be welcome to fill these gaps if you’d like to help me out.

I have to say, it will be a massive relief to send my portfolio off for marking next week and to be able to focus on making progress with the masterpiece. I still haven’t decided what edging to use for it, but the time is coming when I will have to make a decision… any suggestions gratefully received!

Happy birthday, blog

Compost on the bed in the foreground, potatoes in the bed in the background

Compost on the bed in the foreground, potatoes in the bed in the background

Well, apparently it was The Snail of Happiness blog’s second birthday yesterday. In those two years, there have been more than 25,000 visits from 118 countries; I’ve written more than 300 posts and there have been more than 3000 comments. Oh, and the filters have prevented more than 7000 spam comments appearing!

I’m not sure what the appropriate way of celebrating is, but perhaps spreading compost on the garden and planting potatoes (which is what we’ve been doing today) is appropriate for a blog about sustainability.

Some of my diploma work

Some of my diploma work

I started writing this blog at round about the same time I embarked on my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, partly as a way of sharing some of the information I gathered. It was a happy coincidence, therefore, that yesterday I finished drafting my ninth design for my portfolio. My tenth, and final, design describes my learning pathway and really just needs tidying up and rounding off as this has been an on-going project throughout the diploma. In addition, the Masterpiece blanket, and associated scrapbook, are going to form a tangible representation of my learning. My tutor, Looby Macnamara, is going to give me her square for the masterpiece at our final tutorial on 15 May. I have, therefore, decided that I won’t add any more squares to the blanket after the end of that week… so that’s your deadline if you are planning to send something for inclusion. My final presentation (assuming that all goes well with the assessments) will be in September at the UK Permaculture Convergence… where the masterpiece will have a starring role!

The end of my diploma does not, of course, mean the end of blogging, but it might free up a bit more time for the garden… which has been somewhat neglected over the past two years what with studying, family illness and voluntary work. I am hoping for an abundant summer in 2014 – lots of fruit and vegetables and lots of crafty activities, so lots to write about here. I hope you will keep reading!

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!


* 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!

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