Just say ‘no’

According to Elton John ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’, but for me, it seems, in fact, to be ‘no’.

I may need to take some lessons from Max!

They say that if you want something doing, you should ask a busy person. So I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t some noticeboard out there listing busy people that has my name on. Now, don’t get me wrong…I love being involved with the various organisations that I do voluntary work for, and I’m happy with the paid work that I do, and I want to continue growing some of my own food, and making items for the house, and keeping chickens, and cooking pretty much everything from scratch, and studying for my diploma, and teaching adults, and… well, perhaps you get the idea. However, I also want to feel a bit less overwhelmed with things to do!

So, this week I have said ‘no’ twice. Once in relation to charity work and once in relation to paid work. I should be feeling relieved – I already do lots of charitable work and this was in addition to an extra role that I have already taken on recently; and I will only be unavailable for 10 days of paid freelance work – but I seem, instead, to be feeling guilty.

I normally always agree to help out with whatever I’m asked to, but recently when I mentioned this to a friend, she reminded me of the three permaculture ethics: earth care; people care; and what I have always referred to as ‘fair share’ (because they rhyme). The friend described the third ethic as ‘sharing surplus’ and suggested that I should be sharing my ‘surplus’ energy rather than all of my energy… and that I should consider myself as well as other when I think of ‘people care’. It’s true – and I guess also that ‘people care’ should begin at home, but I still can’t help feeling that perhaps I shouldn’t have said ‘no’! Perhaps I just need something to fret about, or perhaps it’s just that it’s a new experience for me…

Anyway, I’m off now to get on with a bit of work for the Permaculture Association and then I might get round to making a felt case for my camera that I have, so far, not found time for!

Doggy dilemma


I’d like you to meet Sam and Max:

Canine companions

They are quite big part of my life.  In my quest for sustainability, perhaps a PMI analysis is in order…


  • They help me to keep fit
  • They keep me company when Mr Snail-of-happiness is working away from home (and vice-versa)
  • They don’t answer back (usually)
  • They keep the foxes away from the garden (directly and because a terrier-proof garden is partially fox-proof)
  • They eat scraps
  • Sam makes an excellent hotwater bottle replacement
  • I like them

    Sam guarding against fox incursions


  • I have to feed them: they do eat scraps, but I also buy commercial dog food… a drain on the earth’s resources and supporting some multi-nationals that I don’t really like
  • Max is hairy and has to be groomed – a financial cost plus the use of energy and chemicals
  • They have to be vaccinated and have other medical care… chemicals and multi-nationals again
  • They produce ‘waste’
  • They can be really irritating (especially at 5:30 am)


There are possibilities on the draught excluder front

  • Max helps support a local business (Tina the groomer)
  • I might be able to make felt out of their fur
  • They are both rescued, so I didn’t support puppy breeding
  • I have finally trained them to leave the chickens alone

    Max sees a chicken for the first time in his life

    I’m definitely keeping them! But perhaps I’ll review their diet and at least buy their food from the local pet shop to make them a bit more sustainable.

(Earth and People) Care in the Community

Sustainability may begin at home, but it’s also good to get it out in the community. With this in mind I give my support to a local environmental education charity, Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. They are working on a great project called Wildlife Where You Live, which aims to help build robust rural communities through conservation and biodiversity work. It’s not just experts coming in and telling the community what to do, it’s about engaging all sorts of people in environmental activities.

The newly installed wetland water treatment system is just awaiting ground flora planting

DFCC also run environment-related courses, many in conjunction with Aberystwyth University. Whist I was up there today there was a beginners’ bird identification course going on… by lunchtime their species count was up to 16, they told me. It’s a lovely place to go to learn and teach (I run several courses there each year), with great habitats (ponds, scrapes, woodland, rhos pasture, wildflower meadows) and increasingly more examples of sustainability in action (a new wetland water treatment system, solar water heating, solar pv, rainwater harvesting, compost toilet, compost heaps and – coming soon – a biomass boiler). All-in-all a great demonstration site.

As well as being used as a venue for courses DFCC is open to the public, with a network of freely accessible paths: free leaflets describing the site are available. So if you are near Lampeter in Ceredigion, why not call in? And if that’s not near you, why not support your own local charities that are encouraging sustainability?

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