Moving on creatively

My diploma portfolio and the masterpiece

My diploma portfolio and the masterpiece

Yesterday I finally packaged up my permaculture diploma portfolio and sent it off to be assessed. It’s taken me 2¼ years (much less time than most people take) and I cannot express how pleased I am to have got it out of my hair for the time being. It had started to feel like it was always lurking in the corner of the room – glaring at me and accusing me of neglect. Not true, of course – I put a great deal of work into producing the 10 designs therein but, as with everything, I always feel I could have done more. Anyway, It’s gone now and I can stop fretting. All being well, I will make my presentation about it at the biennial permaculture convergence in London in September – I have a slot booked and a couple of volunteers to sit on my peer review panel (I need a few more, but I’m not going to tempt fate by making too many arrangements too far in advance).

So, what’s next? Well, I have the masterpiece to finish. This is going to provide the focus of my presentation in September and I still have a fair bit of work to do on it. I have three more squares to arrive (one each from Lizze, Katy and Lorraine… oh and there’s still room for two more if anyone has an urge to contribute a quick one) and then I can finally stitch them all together and do the edging. And after that…? Well, no more studying for a while. I want to focus on creative activities and I have a whole list planned:

I've already started work on my first pattern

I’ve already started work on my first pattern

  • Making bling bags to sell/barter
  • Stocking and opening my etsy shop (finally)
  • Making my Bavarian crochet afghan
  • Crocheting covers for the big cushions on our sofa (Sam has been eating the zips off the existing ones)
  • Making my felt/leather bag that I bartered the materials for
  • Writing up some of my crochet patterns (yes, Narf, I’ve started the one for that square you like so much)
  • Finishing the hoodie I started when the weather was so much colder
  • Working on a tapestry that Has been sitting around untouched for a couple of years
  • Contributing to the community craft projects at Denmark Farm (more on this soon, including details of how you can join in)

Along with the gardening, blogging and cooking, that should keep me busy at home! Oh, and of course I’d better do some paid work too… lots of editing as always and some teaching (next course is an introduction to permaculture at Karuna). Finally, I am hoping to have a bit more time for visiting friends near and far. You never know, I might turn up on your doorstep one of these days!

 

It’s good to talk

My recent blogging silence is the result of abundant face-to-face communication recently. I spent this last weekend at the British Permaculture Association Convergence. This event happens just once every two years, and is a rare opportunity to meet up with three hundred or so other like-minded folks.

In fact, it was the first time that I have attended the convergence, but it certainly won’t be the last, despite having to camp – an activity that I’m not terribly keen on. The whole meeting only lasts about 50 hours, but they manage to pack a great deal in: workshops, talks, walks, eating, drinking and dancing. There was even a cabaret and auction on Saturday night. I was spoilt for choice when it came to deciding which sessions to go to, but the ones I chose included two diploma presentations (candidates for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design must give a presentation to and receive feedback from a group of their peers), a presentation on designing a family garden, one on building sustainability into a business and one on grain and vegetable production. All were informative and genuinely enjoyable, but perhaps the best part of the weekend was meeting real people.

I am a very active member of a (closed) Facebook group for apprentices working towards the Diploma, and have become good friends with a great many people through this forum. However, I have never encountered most of them ‘in the flesh’ before… I didn’t even know what some of them looked like (like me, not everyone uses a photograph of themselves on Facebook). It was, therefore, a great joy to sit down with real people and share a real physical experience… including a muddy field, torrential rain, glorious sunshine, cake and cups of tea. The exchange of ideas via the internet is a valuable resource, but to consolidate this with a face-to-face meeting has added a whole extra dimension. Apart from anything else, we tend to keep comments relatively short when typing, but longer and more complex ideas can be expressed more easily when we are using speech. In addition, the lack of a time lag means that discussions flow more easily and there is the opportunity for more spontaneity.

So, what were the more concrete results of my weekend? First, the formation of a small group of scientists who have started putting together ideas about teaching aspects of science to support permaculture designers. Second, a new friend with whom I’m going to develop a bigger range of knitted permaculture teaching tools… with the intention of running a session about them in two years time at the next convergence. Third, the sale of my first set of knitted snails, along with another set sold for a ridiculous amount  in the auction to support the Permaculture Association. And lots of new friends to support and inspire me. Oh, and there was much hugging too!

There is a short film showing some of the activities over the weekend, but it only captures a little of the feeling of the weekend.

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!

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