Use minimum effort for maximum effect.

I’ve nearly finished reading the book, Permaculture: a beginner’s guide by Graham Burnett. This is a 64 pages, introductory graphic guide which has only taken me around seven months to read!

Permaculture is basically an acronym meaning ‘permanent culture’ It’s caused me to start thinking about what permanent culture, as someone with a chronic health condition, means to me. To me it would be a culture where health is valued above money, where I and the planet I was born on are able to manage the symptoms of our respective conditions, where we’re both treated with respect, where I don’t need to live in fear of what our mutual futures’ might hold.

There are a few permaculture ethics which particularly resonated with me as I was reading it. One was, “use minimum effort for maximum effect”. How very appropriate for someone with a fatigue condition!

Minimum effort for maximum effect

Also, “turn problems into solutions”, and “yield is only limited by the imagination”. If these statements are true, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses should be master permaculturists as such people are generally already adept at the former and generously endowed with the latter, in my experience!

Raised vegetable box

I’m currently opting for the “getting stuck in and doing it yourself” approach, as I don’t feel ready or able to study any type of course at this time. I started off with something small and manageable, not being an experienced gardener. I hope the images depicted say it all.

Sugar snap

I think I actually sowed the sugar snap peas and salad leaves slightly too early, in early March. Due to all the bad frosts we had in England, right up until May, it was a long time before we were able to repot them outdoors. By this time, my ‘cut and come again’ salad leaves were looking decidedly the worse for wear. I’ve been delighted by the way both plants have perked up and flourished in their new home, once they had ample space and nutrients to grow. Home grown sugar snap peas are particularly delicious. They have a less watery texture and taste than shop brought ones.

Potatoes in flower

I’ve also been growing these potatoes in a biodegradable bin. I always use peat-free compost because peat bogs are marvellous carbon sinks. We need to conserve peat bogs to fight climate change. Both my vegetable box and potato bin were given to me courtesy of my carer so, thank you very much for both.

Baby oak sapling

An Oak sapling I’m tree-sitting for a family friend whilst they’re away over the summer.

Below is a photo of one of my few surviving herbs, out of the nine different herbs I sowed at the beginning of the year. Most of them perished, likely due to being sowed too soon and not having enough big pots to grow them in. The red- veined sorrel has still managed to thrive though. It has a tangy flavour with hints of citrus and a waxy texture. It can be eaten in salads or cooked like spinach. Avoid eating it in large quantities though as it’s high in oxalic acid and can create stones of calcium oxalate within the body. Magically it’s greatly associated with love.

Red veined sorrel

These herbs I sowed later in the year and grew in our greenhouse. All have thrived which is good as both fennel and thyme are attractive to bees! We also have tomatoes, aubergines and peppers growing in our greenhouse, all of which are coming along well.

Basil, fennel and thyme

These nasturtiums are edible flowers. They have an exotic flavour, spicy with a sweet ‘kick’ once you bite into the reproductive heart of the flower.

Nasturtiums

My wildflower patch, which I created last year and wrote about in my post Butterflies and daisies, has been dominated by gigantic oxeye daisies this year. They’d have looked at home in The day of the triffids.

Oxeye daisy

Unfortunately they were rather beaten and battered by all the torrential rain and wind we’ve had.

Wildflower patch

Our wildlife pond has begun to settle in properly now and develop it’s own ecosystem. It’s been swarming with water beetles and even a male common newt paid it a visit. Unfortunately it sprung a leak which needed repairing. On the plus side, in the process of repairing it the workmen also made it a bit deeper. Hopefully it’ll settle down again soon.

Muskmallows peeping through the oxeye daisies

I might as well mention here that I love seeds. I think of them as nature’s version of nanotechnology – tiny but packed with mystical DNA and RNA coding which cause them to turn into an extraordinary variety of beautiful plants. The seeds themselves are also surprisingly varied in appearance.

Apples

We’re now in that time of year when the flowers begin to fade, to be replaced by fruits. We’ve got so many apples this year that the bottom of our garden resembles Avalon!

Bee

I’ve been fortunate to see lots of bees this year. Plants that are particular favourites appear to be borage, sage, foxgloves and rowan blossom.

As well as continuing with recording butterflies via the Butterfly Conservation society’s iRecord butterflies app, I’ve been performing FIT counts. FIT stands for ‘flower – insect timed’ counts. It involves finding a 50×50 cm patch of flowers and then spending 10 minutes watching how many insects and of what type visit the flowers. There’s a downloadable app which you can use to record what you see whilst performing the count.

Although I said I didn’t feel ready or able to study any type of course yet, I’ve still been using online resources to assist my learning. I’m a member of the iSpot community, which is an OU initiative where you can post observations and receive help with identifying them. I’ve also been dipping in and out of Heather Jo Flores’s #free yearlong permaculture course. This is basically a free online resource of bite-sized tutorials with ample links to further information. I can thoroughly recommend it. I enjoy learning but it needs to be at a pace and in a style that suits my needs.

I am aware that many experienced permaculturists would say there’s more to permaculture than gardening (although it does seem to involve a lot of gardening). I will continue to work towards creating a permaculture homestead that’s integrated, self-sustaining and holistic.

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