Winter thoughts and some Permaculture designing
A few reflections
It’s winter, and it’s cold, and it's dark. It’s easy to feel a bit depressed in January and February. The fun and excitement of Christmas and New Year make the fall of autumn into winter much easier to handle, but there isn’t much left for the post-celebratory period. In my family, there are a lot of birthdays in January, which makes a big difference. Nonetheless, the cold and the dark combined with rain and winds can easily make things feel gloomy.
Perhaps that’s why I started Seeking a Good Life in January. Perhaps that’s why I started my other SubStack newsletter, Honeybee Histories, at the same time (just one year earlier). Writing is easier in the winter when there is less to do outside. The need to reach out and connect with people looms larger too.
When I left my full-time job in 2021, I promised myself that I would find ways to make my life less harmful and more beneficial. What I mean by this is simply that all our lives are interconnected with the destruction of our ecologies and with changing the climate. We do harm simply by living our lives, within the systems within which we were born. I turned 40 years old in 2021 as well. As I’ll talk about later in these newsletters, that’s a milestone with a special meaning for me. The idea of living simply has been with me since childhood. My life at 40 wasn’t quite compatible with that expectation or ideal. It still isn’t, but I’m trying.
Writing Seeking the Good Life is part of my contribution to that promise that I made in 2021, but there are more practical things that I’ve done as well. Last year I signed up for a Permaculture Design Course to learn better ways to design my life and my food systems, and (hopefully) to work with others to improve the world in small ways. I’m halfway through that course and loving every minute of it. In fact, I have an evening session tonight where we start to discuss our design ideas. I’m still formulating what, exactly that will be, but the design includes a few key ingredients:
1. At least two plants per month that can help feed bees throughout the year (always have a backup)
2. Space to grow some food for ourselves (fruits, vegetables, a few beans)
3. To incorporate chickens into the design
4. To find a way to complete a cycle of food waste from the kitchen to the garden (and back again as food)
All of this needs to fit into a relatively small garden and it needs to work with what is already there and the particular conditions of the space itself. I’m already thinking about a fifth ingredient, based on Bill Mollison’s principle ‘the problem is the solution’. Last year slugs and snails ran rampant across our vegetable patch, destroying everything! My immediate reaction is to do everything that I can to get rid of them, but perhaps there is another way. Slugs and snails can be useful in a garden, but their numbers need to be controlled and their hunger redirected away from the vegetables. Figuring out how to work slugs and snails into my design is going to take quite a lot of research and consideration.
All this planning is exciting, but I’d really like to get stuck into the actual doing. Again, because it’s so cold and wet outside, that’s hard to do. So I’m also thinking about what Permaculture can teach us about designing our inside spaces. There is a lot less discussion about designing an inside space in Permaculture books. There is much more of a focus on gardening spaces and some focus on human interaction, but not much about the home. I’m not sure why that is, but I can see some good examples of designing the home from movements such as minimalism and Hygge, which I need to investigate. With the current cost of living crisis brought on by big increases in energy bills, the need to make a home feel warm and cozy without excessive heating is more important than ever.
As an aside to these thoughts, we brought a lovely throw rug from a charity shop at the start of winter last year. It’s proved invaluable and makes us feel warmer just by looking at it. That’s a start, but what other simple solutions are there to bring warmth and comfort during these cold, gloomy winter months?
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