I’ve been reading a lot about permaculture recently. Specifically in relation to polytunnels but as with all things once a concept ekes into your consciousness you find it playing out everywhere. One of the many lessons I have gained from the stuff I’ve been reading is a mentality that nothing is a problem – just a question you have not found the answer to yet. Permaculture is mostly about common sense, making what you already have work for you as best it can. Using every resouce, looking to nature for the answers.
When we arrived here just over a year ago it was with the benefit of a year spent already out of the ratrace and the experience of not having absolute control over what happened to us next. We’d spent our time WWOOFing at the hands of others. Suddenly the jobs for the day, the food we were to eat, where we might sleep was not all certain and within our control. Certainly at no point were we doing anything we really didn’t want to, we were always safe and had the choice to stop or walk away but we had learnt a lot about letting go. Infact the months prior to that had also been about letting go. We’d sold or given away or packed up all our ‘stuff’ – material possessions, jobs, house, clothes, family, friends, daily, weekly, monthly routines. Our time in Willow the camper van taught us that our true needs were pretty basic – food, water, shelter, warmth and each other.
So our first plan when we landed here was always to spend time observing, learning, watching. We deliberately did not make any permanent decisions or choices. We have lived in temporary accommodation which although I suspect will never move from it’s current spot on the croft will not be our forever home. The animals are all sheltered in moveable homes. We have put up nothing that cannot be moved. We have spent hours walking the croft in all weathers, all seasons. Marked out places where we think the ground is best, the view the most spectacular, the land most sheltered. We plot our paths around the croft, thinking about how to carry heavy things the shortest distance, how to make life as easy and efficient as we can. Looked at the resources we need and tried to come up with the most logical, natural solutions to getting them. We still have lightbulb moments every week when we realise that something is harder than it needs to be an with a small investment of time or money now we will save over time.
Last week as we carried heavy sacks of animal feed on our shoulders, slipping and sliding in the mud and cursing in the pouring rain, needing to empty the car of the feed so we could get it back across the river before it ran too high and trapped us on the wrong side I said to Ady ‘there has to be an easier way’. So we stopped, went and had a cup of tea and came up with a re-design. The following day when the sun shone again we put a couple of hours work into moving things around and we have a further plan for moving things more this coming weekend. Currently I spend time every day walking to the river to fill my watering can twice over to water all the pots in the polytunnel – all the while slipping and splashing through the surface water which is gathered under the polytunnel and around the doors. That can’t be right, there has to be a way of both gathering the water that is already under my feet and redirecting to water my crops but also to shelp it not be so slippery and splashy underfoot. A wooden legged table my neighbour has in the polytunnel is wicking up this water and the legs are now darker as the water soaks ever higher up those legs. I’ve tried putting containers outside to capture rainfall but the wind blows them away and I spent more time collecting them from around the croft. The answer has not come to me yet but I know it will if I keep thinking about it hard enough.
Another message I am getting loud and clear from the research I have been doing is that we need to document the tough bits and then get creative about making them work to our advantage. What makes our life difficult? The slope, the rainfall, the peaty, boggy ground, the crows and rats preying on our eggs and our young birds, the lack of access. How can we make those things advantages rather than challenges… There will be a way, we just need to find it. Last autumn we realised that rather than see the reeds and rushes that grow so well on the croft as a nusiance we were better strimming, drying and harvesting them to use as animal bedding and saving ourselves money on buying straw. We’re learning how to work with nature and use things as resources rather than write them off as waste.