Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Designing Health the Permaculture Way

Part 1 - Movement

Over the last year I have yet again, through lack of time and losing my favourite exercise activity of Ceroc, gone beyond my comfortable size.  I have an uncomfortable "my belly looks like I am pregnant" phase I hit which always results in my taking stock of where I am health-wise and what I am going to do to tone up a bit.  I then found that I was officially obese with a BMI of 30.5, which is probably the heaviest I have ever been in my lifetime,.  I am sure this is a result of many factors such as:
  1. my relatively recent foray into the "diet" industry AGAIN
  2. the aforementioned lack of Ceroc classes in York
  3. my recurring back problem which occasionally stops me exercising
  4. my weekly kick-boxing classes being cancelled
  5. my liking of chocolate
to mention but a few.  With regards to point 1, like many others, I always end up feeling lousy about my lack of willpower to stick to a restrictive diet and I end up heavier/fatter than when I started. It always seems such an ingrained, natural thing to do though - to diet. I always vowed after having children that I wouldn't diet because I don't want my children growing up with the idea that diets are a good thing. Anyway I am resolute that I not going to restrict my eating like that again and I will be looking at my eating habits as a separate issue to this one.  So having vowed that I would never again restrict my diet or try to be unrealistic about what exercise I am going to do, I was left with a bit of hole as to what to do next.  This void, together with no sign of Ceroc classes returning to York, left me in a bit of a quandary.

So I started thinking about designing my health and I thought that using Lobby's Design Web mentioned in her book Permaculture and People would be a great place to start.  What I liked about this Permaculture Design Process was that it is more geared towards acknowledging me as a person and I felt it would help me overcome the obstacles which have hindered my health in the past. There were also many aspects of the ideas within this web which resonated with processes which I have put in place in my life since attending the Hoffman Process and training as a Shamanic Practitioner (more of these realisations may appear in other blog posts and Permaculture design write-ups.)  Here is the write up of that design so far using Looby's Design Web:


Growth Phase
Vision To be healthier.
To continue to enjoy life and find more ways to integrate body movement (I hate the word exercise) into my way of life.
To find a balance between time away at classes and time with my family.
To protect my back (which has been problematic since I was 16) by increasing my core stability.
To have fun.
Incorporate more movement into my everyday life to counteract the amount of time spent at a computer.
To be realistic.
Learn more useful skills.
Build on what I already know.
Helps My geeky nature - I could potentially incorporate some apps and goals so I can see my progress.
The resources of the internet.
My stubbornness and willingness to try anything once.
Finding activities which are fun and/or useful in my life in other ways.  
Limits Cost (financial, equipment, time.)
I get bored easily.
The need to feel that the time/cost is worth it.
My tendency to be unrealistic.

Exploratory Phase
Patterns 1. I get bored easily.
2. I don't like spending money.
3. I don't like going out in the evening as that is when I see my husband.
4. I fear I won't stick to any program if I have to do it alone.
5. If it's not fun I will not want to continue.
6. Worrying about my appearance.
7. I find it difficult to do exercise at home because I forget as there are always other things to do and distractions.
8. Overdoing it and not realising when I need a break
Ideas 1. Find an activity which progresses in some way or where improvements are easily noticed.
2. Use my time-bank hours to pay for classes or find something where the benefit of the class outweighs the cost. Realise any investment will be of benefit to me.
3. Include the family in my workouts or find during the day classes which don't get in the way of evening family time which is what we did with kick-boxing.
4. Find classes where there is extra motivation to participate or find some goal-orientated way to give me staying power to keep going.
5. Find classes I really, really enjoy like Ceroc.
6. Continue to work on the reasons that I don't like my appearance and realise that these are not size-related because they have always been there.
7. Find activities I can do at home and find a way to remind myself.
8. Make sure I evaluate regularly and re-design when needed 
Principles 1. Observe and Interact - taking ideas from nature - I have always liked the idea of natural movement (see blog posts here and here) but I find it really difficult incorporating these ideas into my life (point 7 in patterns.) I need to find ways to have the space, time and inclination to does these things and I need to integrate them into my way of life so that I think about it, they are just things I do as naturally as breathing, eating, etc. I also need to be aware of when I am resisting any changes and analyse what this resistance means.

2. Catch & Store Energy - maybe my geeky nature would be a good way to capture the energy of my finding new ways to move and get healthier e.g.
revisit websites I have used before to track my activities e.g. endomondo, mapmyfitness, myfitnesspal and investigate other activity apps/websites which incorporate goal setting; connecting to others and forums for advice; in the past I have taken photos along the way which I might do again to keep me motivated; getting my kids involved could also help.

3. Obtain a Yield - feeling healthier, losing the "pregnant" belly feeling, incorporating natural movement into my life so it is seamless, learn what feels good to me, increase my range of body movements and become more somatically aware.

4. Apply Self-regulation & Accept Feedback - if I don't enjoy the activity I need to find something else as I refuse to do exercise for the sake of exercise as it makes me feels bad and my emotional well-being is as important as my physical well-being. Maybe finding classes which are flexible would benefit my life-style in that I very often cannot stick to a set time and day. Pay-as-you-go is therefore better than any pre-paid classes. Revisit how I feel about what I am doing every month or so to check that I am happy; my kids are happy with any time away as is my dh. My feedback needs to be about how I feel physically but also emotionally, spiritually and mentally about my health. Although I am talking about activities and classes if I am not feeling better in all aspects of my life then my plan is not working so I need to find a way to monitor these 4 areas each month.

5. Use & Value Renewable Resources and Services - I will be using my own power to improve my health and one of the reasons I am planning this design is so that I remain a viable renewable resource for as long as possible.

6. Produce no Waste - over time I have accrued all the workout equipment, DVDs, clothing and shoes that I need to try any type of activity necessary. I will endeavour where possible to find local activities and will evaluate why (if ever) I need to go further afield. Again I will balance using my car to get to classes over time away from family and other considerations.

7. Design from Patterns to Details - being clear about why I want to be healthier and how to balance my health with family/time/finances.  Combat any negative patterns about my health and create healthy patterns. Evaluate my monthly feedback from (4) and redesign if necessary. Celebrate any break in negative patterns as well as any new healthier ones.

8. Integrate rather than Segregate - having made a space in my bedroom (see here) for exercise which already includes a climbing wall, punch-bag, various exercising paraphernalia and a playstation 2/TV combo and now enough floor space for most types of activity this gives the kids and I the chance to engage in whatever movement activity takes our fancy. This area is nearly perfect from a theoretical point of view but we need to start using it so that it becomes an integral part of our lives for fun movement activities including keeping up with our kick-boxing skills in case we ever get to go back to our classes.

9. Use Small Slow Solutions - I am being realistic here that anything I do is not going to make my "pregnant"-like belly disappear overnight or my BMI suddenly be reasonable. I haven't had a BMI within normal range for over 12 years and I am not even sure I agree with it as a measurement anyway. This design is focussing on how I feel about myself from all four aspects of my "quadrinity" (as the Hoffman Process calls the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of ourselves) and so my reflective writings about how I feel will be my overall guide as to how the design is going. Integrating different ways of being in my body will be slow because anything that doesn't work will be dis-guarded and new things tried and evaluated.

10. Use & Value Diversity - I need to look at this "integrating movement into my life" design holistically and as mentioned earlier need to include different types of movement in different places e.g. outdoors, indoors, natural movement, cardio, strength work, martial arts, etc.

11. Use Edges  & Value the Marginal - over the last year there have been changes in my life which are worth considering with regard to edges. For example, my parents moving to York and my getting a Saturday job. Both these things can integrate using my body more into my life if I chose them to. Sharing some activities with my children and husband can acknowledge the edges between us and help me in my endevaour to improve my health.

12. Creatively Use  & Respond to Change - I am going to be 42 in January so I need to incorporate strength work as well as cardio as my muscle mass is in decline. I have an opportunity to include natural movement now we have a woodland where we get the fuel for our wood-burning stove so I can carry logs from garden to house regularly over winter and pile logs all year round at the woodland. I recently started working so relying on walking and cycling wherever possible saves money (+ve.) I also have an opportunity to include my children in anything I do as I home educate and want them to have a positive view on how moving their bodies makes them feel good. Most of all though I need to find activities that take over from Ceroc and kick-boxing.

Productive Phase
Thoughts via hackpad
Action Measure various parts of my body and take a photo on 1st January 2015
Use misfit acticity tracker everyday and sync with app so it gets picked up by mapmywalk
Trial Monday swimming with the kids at least once a month
Keep going to MFT classes on Tuesday (or Thursday if I cannot do Tuesday)
Trial Tai Chi classes on Wednesday morning with the kids, once a month maybe twice - review in 2 months
Friday - attend Jitsu class (move to Monday if I cannot do Friday)
Friday or Saturday once a month to every 6 weeks go climbing with at least Dave
Try out various activities with the kids eg. 7 minute workout on my phone; DVDs; trampolining; kettlebells; natural movement; etc. - start small
Incorporate more things as I get more time
Momentum Review on the 1st of every month. Add this date to my calender as well as a weekly check in when I have time.

Reflective Phase
Appreciation Take photos and measurements at my monthly review and celebrate my achievements regardless
Reflection Monthly review. 
Pause If I need time off, take time off.

That's it for now. Watch this space!!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Finding a rhythm and the minimalist game

Looking back at my post from August and especially the one from the start of 2014 here it is fascinating to see what things have changed since then. I am now employed at the Northern College of Acupuncture (NCA).  It is a blessing to work at such a worthwhile place even if it is only very part-time. I hoping that my computer programming skills might help here as well because the NCA are considering changing their client database structure.

I never got round to adding alarms to my phone for reading books and doing crafts because I wasn't organised enough at the time. I also realised I was too busy finishing my Shamanic Practitioner training, my Permaculture Association Trustee duties (where I was made official administrator back in July) as well as the needs to my immediate and wider family. However I have now started using google calender, google tasks, google keep and their associated apps on my phone so I am wondering whether, once my OU course is finished in July, I will add these things to my to-do-list if that is what I think is the best use of my time.

Anyway over the last year I have started finding a much-needed rhythm to my life. I feel this has been partially due to my Shamanic studies as well as my continued learning about Permaculture design methodology and how it can help design all areas of a person's life. I have started surveying and assessing the way my house works for us as a family. As a home educating family and my occasional need to work from home we have a myriad needs of our house from accommodating large numbers of children and parents to my needing a place to tutor students or work as a shamanic practitioner. This has led to my contemplating designing a number of rooms in the house and de-cluttering as a by-product of the design implementation. I am going to continue this de-cluttering and am thinking of doing the Minimalist game with my dd in the New Year as a way to maintain and tweak the design. Starting from the 1st January we are going to throw things out or ebay them every day. The challenging bit is that on the 2nd we have to throw 2 things out, 3 on the 3rd, 4 on the 4th, etc.

As part of evaluating my bedroom design over the last few weeks I have already made some changes which have resulted in at least the 6th January being sorted as I found 6 bags I don't need. Whether I will manage all the way through January will be interesting but I like the SMARTness (see below) of this game and if it works I will be implementing it more than once as a fun SADIMET tweak to my de-cluttering designs.  My bedroom was my first design within my house but I have my dining/kitchen area that also needs designing as well as potentially my loft, garage, Shamanic room and porch.  Let's see if this game works or not!!

Specific - follow the instructions
Measurable - I follow the instructions or not
Achievable - 496 items = a lot but I have many things I don't use so hopefully it is do-able
Realistic - see above
Time-bound - this is the best thing about this game.  It is very specifically time-bound.  By the end of January 2015 I will have 496 less things cluttering my house. 

The other great thing about this game is the fact that I am limited on time at present but I want to keep my momentum from the Permaculture Association National Diploma Gathering going.  I have put on hold starting any further designs (I have an "exercise" design that I need to write up) whilst I concentrate on finishing my OU course and settling into working at the NCA.  I am however wanting to continue de-cluttering and finding more rhythm in my life.  If anyone wants to join me in the game let me know!

Monday, 1 December 2014

PA NDG - Sensational, Awe-inspiring, Design-filled, Interlacing, Moments, Everyone, Together

Together sums up my first National Diploma Gathering organised by the Permaculture Association (see what I did there - using a Permaculture design framework acronym to explain how the weekend went!!!).

I am just back from an awesome weekend at Casleton YHA attending the Permaculture Association's annual National Diploma Gathering 2014. It was my first time at this event and although I have always had in the back of my mind that I might try to achieve my Permaculture Diploma I haven't really properly considered it. Also as part of my role as a Trustee for the Association I have been exploring (with other Trustees) how best to explain what Permaculture is to the masses. As part of my thought processes over the last few months I revisited what permaculture means to me including re-reading my Transition Town competition winning entry about my PDC (Permaculture Design Course). I wanted to galvanise those thoughts with real connections to other people who are implementing permaculture in their lives whilst also attending workshops and generally being nosey about what happens at these weekends. As a Trustee I get to be nosey with impunity and I am so glad I did!!!

All the workshops were interesting, helpful, thought-provoking, inspiring and a great reminder that Permaculture Design principles can be applied to ALL areas of everyone's lives. The three accreditations which happened during the weekend were awe-inspiring, motivating and fantastic examples of permaculture design having fundamental effects on people's lives. Visit the individual sites here for more information -> Nicole VosperNiamhue Robin and I will add Cathrine Dolleris' site when it becomes available.

In true Permaculture style there were also magical moments at the edges of the event. For example,
  1. I had fortunately flung a few extra crochet hooks into my crochet bag with my latest crochet project and I offered to teach others if they wanted. I got two takers who valiantly battled the crochet handhold and both took home their first pieces of crochet.  
  2. I (and others) were given instruction into how to barefoot run safely and it was such fun to have our running recorded and analysed; be shown exercises to stretch and strengthen calf muscles and various other tips. 
  3. A fab guy called Kev was recording during the weekend to capture the essence of "what is permaculture" from as many people that he could and I did my part by sharing my thoughts (see below *)  
  4. All the conversations with fellow attendees on a whole range of topics from home educating to the benefits of linux over Windows as an operating systems.  
  5. Being visible as a Trustee to the members and touching base with 3 fellow trustees who were also attending. I had wondered whether being a Trustee would mean people would take an opportunity to talk to me in that role and it was a wonderful example of stacking that I could be there as a Trustee and as a potential diploma student.
As someone who has struggled with insecurities in the past it was fab that these types of interactions occurred and that I was also approached for my expertise in shamanism, home education and crochet. I even had someone commenting that they had found my blog posts about home educating useful. I know I write this blog for my own benefit but it always satisfying to know that it is being found, read and been useful to someone.

With regards to my short time with Kev (mentioned above*) it was great for me to realise how much "permaculturing my life" is what I want to do because it is a versatile system which can be used in all areas of life. This has really helped me re-evaluate my ideas around my permaculture projects and some changes will be happening to my website sevenstrands.co.uk over the next 6 months because of the weekend. I will also be adding content to this blog and getting back to documenting "permaculturing my life!" in an attempt to streamline and effective-y (I so wish that were a real word) my life by using permaculture design.

So here's to a great weekend jam-packed with inspiring workshops and accreditations; useful discussions about all areas of life; crocheting, making new friends, joining networks; being an effective trustee; re-engaging with permaculture design, doing yoga at 7am in the morning (if you know me you will realise what an achievement that is); re-classifying permaculture as a verb and generally having a fun time. Roll on next year as I will definitely be attending another Permaculture Association National Diploma Gathering and I now have a vested interest because I am new member on the Diploma Working Group!!!!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Zoning the areas of the house helps with decluttering

Over the last few years our house has been in an interesting state of upheavel.  As part of my Permaculture Applied Diploma I have been re-designing our house and trying to zone it so that things are in the right place, easy to find but most importantly easier to keep tidy.  This is not an effortless feat seeing as I am messy and I tend to have at least 5 craft projects on the go which seem to spread themselves around the house.  I am trying to find a dedicated craft area but at present we are still trying to finish the kitchen before we can work out what to do with the old dining room, before I can then work on the rest.
However, I have managed to majorly re-design my bedroom!!!  It isn't totally sorted but it is working really well.  Observation in this area indicated that having all the resources around the edge of a long, thin room was making the room thinner and minimising what could be achieved within the left-over space.  In the future the room could be split into two decent sized rooms but this isn't wanted or needed at present.  There was also a need for a space in the house in which to exercise.  Putting all these needs together I evaluated that using the furniture to make a border down the middle of the room (above) could create more usable space whilst splitting the room into two distinct zones: the dressing/clothes area (to the right) and the exercise/study area.

The study/exercise area needs work but it is a start and the implementation of these changes and the creation of a separate dressing area has resulted in a less messy space and has also led to de-cluttering of clothes and bedding.  It seems that zoning has a knock-on effect in that it makes it easier to sort, de-clutter and cyclically makes it easier to maintain. Result!!  This design is a great example of using the OBREDIM permaculture design process.  All this sorting and tidying in one area also had a ripple effect across the whole of the house.

Above there is a new shelf put into the living room for the kids new craze of loom-banding.

Another thing in the house which is in the process of being redeveloped and redesigned after major building work is the kitchen (read about the renovation here.)  This has been a long and drawn out process because resources meant that we could pay for the building changes but couldn't afford to pay for the decorating or new kitchen design.

This has meant that progress has been slow. However this has allowed time to see how the space is used by family and visitors to the house. 

Surveying and analysing in this way has been productive and enlightening and has meant that the design for the kitchen has been re-evaluated and re-designed at least 3 times over the last year.

The implementing of the new design is going to take a while and there is more evaluating that needs to take place but one thing I have been able to do is work out a new way to not waste food.  I have designed a simple cataloguing system for the fridge and freezer using magnetic tape.

It started (as can be seen above in the bottom half of the picture above ) by just using whiteboard markers. They are not easy to wipe off and made the system awkward.  Magnetic tape may also end up having cons as well but is working so far.  The freezer (above) is divided into drawers so people know where the various foods are.  This also means that energy use is lessened because the freezer doesn't need to be opened for as long whilst someone tries to find the right food.

The fridge has a space for the food actually in the fridge as well as a consider buying section.  The space for the magnets which signal the food stuffs which have been used but don't need re-stocking as yet, are at the bottom of the freezer door. Anyway progress is being made using various design techniques and I am very happy with results.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Don't justify...just be happy!!! My home-educating and breastfeeding experiences...

My son and daughter have been educating themselves for nearly 13 years and 9 years 7 months respectively and I am one of the very few home educators who hasn't really had to justify why I think home educating is more natural than school.  The same way I didn't ever really have to justify breastfeeding even though my children both breastfed for between 3 and 4 years.  

To be honest I am not sure what I would say now if I was questioned about breastfeeding and home educating.  I know it would be different to what I would have said 9 years ago or even 5 years ago.  What I do know is that I really sympathise with people who write posts because they are so fed up of having to justify why they home educate without offending anyone, that they just get fed up and tell you the real reasons why they home educate. 

So here are some of my thoughts

Children learn resilience from everyday life and learn it much more deeply when they are actively involved in resolving conflict or in dealing with whatever difficult situation faces them.  Bullying will NEVER fall into the category of building resilience unless it is resolved.  Seeing others get bullied will also not help children learn how to deal with conflict.

Maths - oh maths - don't get me started on maths.  I am a maths tutor, I love maths, I am a total geek but even I don't understand what the obsession is with maths.  All kids love to count.  It seems like it is built into their DNA: this desire to count steps, sort coins into like groups, collect stones and sort them into colours, or sizes or whatever.  Sorry to break it to you all but the maths your child learns at school seems pretty pointless to me unless they want to teach maths or go into a mathematical discipline at which point you are taught how to do it properly.

The fact that the powers-that-be keep changing the way maths is taught is very telling.  So is the fact that most of the time maths is taught as a separate subject taken out of context.  This makes it confusing and annoying to anyone who doesn't get maths.  Ken Robinson in his talk about Changing Education Paradigms sums it up well.  "Schools are still very much organised on factory lines...specialise into separate subjects.  We still educate children by batches.  Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are."  Watch the full talk here and he goes into much more depth than I do.  But you do have to wonder how can we have taken such a great universal language that ALL children love and turned it into a subject where more than half of children who leave school hate maths?

How children learn
The same goes for socialising and is mentioned by Ken above.  We batch children by their date of manufacture.  Why do we do this?  Why not height, physical ability, mental ability, social ability?  Why not batch them by different things depending upon what you want them to learn?  It is already well known, and has been for years, that children learn best from people who know just a bit more than them so actually do we really need to batch children at all or could we just let them be with whomever they want to be with?  That would be more natural: letting children pick who they want to be with, like we do as adults.  You need to be around people to learn how to socialise and unless you are keeping your child in solitary confinement they are socialising whether you want them to or not, whether it be at school (where they are batched by date of manufacture) or not (where they socialise with anyone they come in contact with.)

Going to school is just one way of being
I have never come across the idea that children miss out on opportunities if they don't go to school.  But turn that on its head - what opportunities are children missing out on by going to school?  The chance to learn what they want, when they want to and when they are ready to enjoy it?  The chance to really absorb themselves in an activity without having to break or move to another subject?  As far as I am concerned our education system is out of date.  Teaching facts, especially out of context, is pretty pointless. We have facts at our fingertips every day because most of us have smartphones.  The internet holds all the facts and computers do calculations really well.

This factual, shallow learning does our children a huge injustice.  We need to be teaching our children creative thinking, conflict resolution, permaculture design, sustainability, survival skills, typing, physiology (how their bodies work), etc. NOT just facts.

We need our children to have the opportunity to find their "element" as Ken Robinson calls it and we need to be aware that we don't know what the future holds with regards to what skills we need.  I am pretty sure though that we can all agree that facts are not skills.  Edward De Bono says that schools only teach reactive thinking which is also not going to serve our children into the future.  We need design thinking, creative thinking not critical, analytical and reactive thinking and we need our children to know how to treat each other with respect.

When she was younger, my daughter was occasionally being told (by some of her "friends") that she is stupid because she doesn't know maths facts or stuff that is learnt at school.  Or that she wasn't liked any more because she has done something that has been classed as "bossy."  I tell my children about the difference between a person's actions and a person themselves.  One of the foundations of many communication systems like NVC or PET is the idea -> judge the action, not the person.  These are fundamental ideas that ALL children should know.  "You did something mean" NOT "You are mean."  Then there is also the idea of communicating your wants and needs from a friendship instead of name-calling and manipulation.  Again NVC has a great set of "rules" as to how to communicate your needs:

"<name of child> I experience you as bossy.  What I need from you is to understand that I want to be heard in this game situation and want to have my ideas listened to too"

or in my child language

"<name of child> in this game you are being bossy.  I need my game ideas to be heard too before we play"


"<name of child> you are bossy and I don't like you any more" -> in this scenario no-one gets their needs met, people get upset and someone has been unfairly labelled as bossy.

These are things that I model to my children as best I can as I am sure others do, but this is not something that I am aware of being taught at school as is evident by my daughter's interactions with some of her school-going peers.

Here's the Factual stuff.
WRT home educating, watch the Ken Robinson video here, do some of your own research but most of all don't judge home educators without knowing the facts.  

  • You don't need to go to school to learn to read - my kids taught themselves to read at 11.5 and 5.5 years old
  • You don't need to go to school to socialise - socialising is most easily learnt in a natural setting where life is lived.  
  • You don't actually need to learn geography, science, maths, English or any of the subjects that are taught at school - someone else decided that curriculum and they decided it a long time ago
  • School doesn't teach you anything that you cannot learn at home

Most of us just want to left alone to bring up our kids our way without having to justify it or make you feel better about the way you are bringing up your kids.  If you don't want to know the real reasons why we do it (school is out-dated, school is 40% a waste of time, school forces kids to learn stuff too early, exams have become so dumbed down that they are pointless, etc) then don't ask because one day you may come across the person who wrote the blog I mentioned at the top or who thinks those things in the brackets and you might get more than you bargained for.

But please whatever you do, do your research.  Be happy that what you are doing with your children is the best thing for them and the right thing for you as a family.  And if you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else or trying to get them to justify their decisions about their kids to make you feel better, then you might be doing something wrong and should maybe consider re-evaluating your decisions.

None of this is meant to offend anyone although if that is your bag go forth and be offended (although also feel free to read my blog post about not being offended instead!!)  

WRT breastfeeding, breastfeeding is natural and anything else is a substitute with varying degrees of health benefits from expressing, wet-nursing, using other's breast milk via a bottle, organic formula downwards.  Breast milk is the only thing your baby is meant to have nutritionally speaking.  Less than 1% of people cannot breastfeed for medical reasons.  The rest either didn't want to or didn't know what to do because they were given bad advice by professionals, didn't research it properly, we're not given decent support from friends or family or didn't know where to access decent support.  The best way to be successful at anything is research, support and practice.  Breastfeeding is just the same.  

Again I was lucky.  Breastfeeding hurt like hell but then it got better as it usually does at around 6 weeks. But don't be fooled.  You are a mammal.  Mammals have mammary glands for feeding their babies.  If you want to know more facts go here and if you want decent advice about breastfeeding go to La Leche League(LLL), Association of Breastfeeding mothers(ABM) or NCT.

My reasons
If you are actually interested in why I full-term breastfed or why I home-educate here are just some of my reasons:

I breastfed my kids because:

  • I am lazy
  • It was easy
  • It gave them comfort
  • It was designed for them
  • It helped me lose weight
  • It stopped me getting my periods back so soon
  • It was free
  • It is why I have breasts
  • It means I am less likely to get breast cancer
  • It has numerous health benefits for my children
  • It would make my children more intelligent
  • I don't like feeding my kids from a plastic bottle
  • It was a great way to get them to sleep
  • It can be done anywhere

I home educate my children because:

  • I wanted their natural curiosity for the world to continue uninterrupted.  They learnt to walk, talk, feed themselves and go to the toilet by themselves so I believed they could teach themselves other stuff too.
  • I wanted them to learn at their own pace where I believe deeper and more profound learning occurs.
  • I think the National Curriculum is a waste of time.  The focus on English (which we all speak); Maths (most of which we don't need to learn) as opposed to mental arithmetic (which I think is quite useful) and Science as opposed to physiology, proactive thinking skills and sustainability (or any other skills) makes no sense to me. 
  • I think exams are pointless especially now when you can only really be judged exam-grade wise against the people who did their exams in the same year as you.  The marks, boundaries and subjects just keep changing too much to give a decent comparison so making them useless to employers and academic institutes alike.  
  • I wanted them to mix (socialise) with people of all ages for the most part of their day because I feel it gives a more realistic feel of the real world.
  • I didn't want them forced to learn things they are not interested in or are not ready to learn such as reading.  I felt that I was forced to read at school when I wasn't ready and it made me dyslexic.  
  • They only have one childhood and I would like them to have fun
  • If they want to go to school it will be their choice

Friday, 8 August 2014

Connecting via the weather

I had a strange but lovely time this morning.  Needing to go across town to collect a mended tent pole before going for a massage, I decided that I would also visit the tip to justify using the car.  Lovely hubbie loaded the car with wood and metal that is not needed any more and off I went.

Just after I turned up at the tip the heavens opened.  The guy next to me jumped into his van and I asked if I could join him so that I could keep an eye on the weather.  He said yes and offered me tissue to dry my hair as I was already dripping.  We talked for a bit about both of us being on a deadline - he had windows to fit (LOL) and I needed to retrieve my tent pole and get to my pre-booked sports massage.  The rain was not easing so we both went to it and continued our sorting and tipping.  I got smiles from at least 2 people who were safely sitting in their cars.  I felt connected to those strangers just for a fleeting moment  - a shared grin over the madness of the British weather with them maybe thinking "I'm glad I'm not out there" or "you're mad to be getting drenched" or whatever else...

The downpour was so heavy and so quick that it flooded streets and shops in Acomb -> see here

Anyway by the time I got back in my car my underwear was wet from the rain constantly running down my back.  I reckon I could have wrung my trousers out and filled a small glass quite easily.  I zoomed off though, retrieved my mended tent pole (got some funny looks in that store as I squelched my way to the checkout) and drove to my massage appointment.  Along the way through York though I saw so many people not so much enjoying the rain but embracing the fact that they could do nothing about the suddenness of it.  So many people like me had gone out with just a t-shirt on or with no waterproofs or had just got caught out whilst out and about, there was an air of joyful abandon that was refreshing and fun to see.  I noticed at least 3 separate cyclists who were grinning as they splashed through the puddles even though none of them had waterproofs on.  I saw a family just walking along all drenched and smiling.  I saw a lad jump across a massive puddle at the side of the road and smile as he made it safely to dry land and all those people made me smile.

I love connecting with people in those ways that are never planned and I love seeing the joy that the unexpected brings.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Seasons - poem

The earth is sleeping.  
Feel the cold breath on your face.  
This is winter.  

The earth is waking.  
Yawning, stretching.  
See the snowdrops, buds and crocuses.  
This is spring.  

The earth is dancing.  
Singing and drumming. 
See the colours bursting on the trees
Hear the birds and see the bees.  
Feel the warmth beneath your feet: grass or sand, soul or pavement.  
This is summer.  

The earth is humming.  
Hear the crunch of the fallen leaves under your boots.  
See the stars and light the fires.  
This is autumn.  

Friday, 9 May 2014

Amusing York City Council fail

On Good Friday York City Council refuse collection people failed to empty our bin. My husband phoned them that day to complain but it was Good Friday so no-one was there and there was no way to leave a message. Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday followed with no opportunity to complain so on Tuesday I sent the Council this message:

Sent: 2014-04-22 15:37:23.383 
To: ycc@york.gov.uk 
Subject: Last Friday 
When the bin collection was done last Friday our bin wasn't emptied for some reason. How do I get this rectified? 
Cheers Viv 

This is the response I received today - 17 days later - 11 working days because there was another bank holiday Monday in there.

Dear Viv 
Thank you for your e-mail and I apologise for the delay in replying. If your bin was not collected it does need to be reported within 24 hours either via e-mail or by telephone 01904 551551 and if it is a missed collection by the crew we can ask them to return for the bin. 
Kind Regards 
York Customer Centre 

As you can tell I was not amused. My husband did phone on the day and I emailed on the first working day after the failed collection. If I had sent an email on the Friday no-one would have read it and as it was it took them 11 working days to respond to point out my failure. Anyway here is my response. Childish I know but seriously York City Council...

My husband tried to report it on the day but you were closed because it was bank holiday Friday. Oh and you were closed Saturday, Sunday, oh and Monday. During that time there was no facility to leave a message!!! So nice to know it takes you this long to respond and that you are no help whatsoever. If you look at the date I sent you the message it was the first day you were open after you not dealing with my bin!!!!!!!! Total fail. Maybe you can make it up to me by replacing my recycling bin which has been nicked, without charge. Probably not though.

As of today - Monday 19th May - I have had no response.  That is 5/6 working days since I sent the above email on the 9th.

Despite the below twitter reply from York Council (May 19th) I am still awaiting a respsonse - date 11th July 2014

CityofYork - Hi @vckidd we have passed the details of your query on to the team and have asked that someone contacts you as soon as possible. Thanks.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

My "Help-Yourself" Garden

Ryan has been helping me with gardening again and today we organically came across a cunning plan for utilising the space at the front of my house.  You see, where Ryan is standing in this photo, there used to be a planter.  It wasn't getting enough rain and I (being a serious non-green-fingered person) failed to water it.  So Ryan and I hatched a plan that we would move the planter to somewhere more conducive to getting rained upon.  Sounds simple but there was a lot of stuff that needed to be done along the way.

This is the planter making its way to it's new home.  And along the way we had to saw wood, move logs, get ds to stand on the contents of the green bin so we could fit more stuff into it, photograph frogs (see below), watch hot air balloons go overhead (see photos below), sweep the path, relocate one of the clumps of comfrey from the planter to the back garden, move more logs, move other logs to the back garden and clean the car (which had nothing to do with the cunning plan).  And whilst all this was being done their were vague ideas being discussed of making the planter a herb planter and transplating some of the plants from the raised bed next to the front wall so that that too contained only edible plants.

And from these discussions came an idea of sharing this produce with my neighbours and friends.  And so the help-yourself front garden was born.
The great thing was that during the day whilst tidying the front garden (I wish I had taken a proper before photo so you could ahev seen how untidy it was) we came across black plastic sheeting from when we had the woodburning stove installed.  This will be perfect for creating a pallet-based vertical garden system.

I also got around to cutting up our Christmas tree and that kindly donated by a neighbour for us to burn.  That donated Christmas tree generated another idea for the "help-yourself" garden in that as well as being able to help-yourself to some of the yummy edibles, maybe it could also be a "help-yourself" in donating unwanted trees, wood, and maybe even spare plants to others.
Anyway here is the planter in its new home next to the raised bed. Both beds are going to be planted with wholly edible foods over the next few months and hopefully a fuller system of raised plant pots with various yummies will sit in front of both beds.

There is space under the planter for unwanted wood and people will be invited to drop of wood if they want.

Dd is already designing some signs explaining the concept and there are also ideas for putting out information leaflets for what is being grown as well as recipe ideas.  All this from needing to move the planter to somewhere were it would get more water because I am too forgetful to water it.

Exciting though.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Women's Magazine

I recently went to Wales for a course so had a 1-change train trip.  I get quite excited when I get to go on the train and have limited distractions I can take with me and it is my one opportunity to peruse the magazine isle at the train station newsagents (normally WHSmith.)  Not being a regular train traveller I seem to have a memory problem in that I always forget the short-lived excitement of getting a puzzle book or a magazine because they don't have either the ones that I want.  I am a kakuro fan and most of the japanese puzzle books at suduko and I am a craft fan and there are NO craft magazines that you can purchase at station newsagents.  This trip I decided that I would actually count what magazines I could get as a 'typical' woman, if there is a such a thing!!

Beauty magazines – you know, the ones designed to help you make yourself as attractive as every other woman mostly showing you famous woman who have experts and the time to make themselves that beautiful → at least 10.  I was reminded of someone telling me how much time it takes for an average star to get ready for any red carpet event.  It's a long time and I mean a LONG time.  Let's be honest most of us don't have that amount of time so these magazines are just designed to much us feel crap about ourselves or at the very least inferior.

Exercise and weigh loss magazines – you know, the ones designed to help you make yourself as fit and healthy as every other woman.  Slightly better than the beauty magazines because they often feature 'real' women, they are still sending a message that you could or should be thinner, healthier, eating something different to what you are (often with an out-dated diet that is one size fits all because we are all the same or at least we should all try to be.)  The message is if you only tried a bit harder or had more willpower you too could be perfect or at least a helluva lot better than you are now.  There were at least 8 of these magazines so I least I could choose which diet or exercise regime I could beat myself up with!!

And then I have saved the worse to last.  There were at least 20 gossip magazines which I could choose from telling me who was wearing what dress, who was splitting up from whom, who was pregnant with who's baby and other such information.  These magazines are full of beautiful women, who again have the staff, time, money to spend on looking fab, or of women who were beautiful but let themselves slip; or who are beautiful but made the mistake of wearing the “wrong” clothes or could be more beautiful if only they would put on some more make-up.  There is a crossover with these magazines and the beauty ones but this category are much more underhand about what is or isn't beautiful.

Well strangely enough I did not want to waste £s on any of these.  I wanted to have a look at the craft magazines: the knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing, creative-type glossies.  Unfortunately there weren't any of those so instead I saved my money and wrote this and when I have finished this I will continue reading Charles Eisenstien's book “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible” and sigh at the irony of how Charles mentions that the “all of our external institutions reflect our basic perceptions of the world, our invisible ideologies and belief systems.”  Basically, there are no craft magazines at train station newsagents because no-one wants to buy them.  People want to buy the other magazines to look outside of themselves to discover who they are.  The problem is it isn't making us any happier as is evident by a $4 billion dieting industry and this vicious cycle of beauty, gossip and health magazines.

Monday, 7 April 2014

More poems

I am trying to get all my poems from Facebook and get them here on my blog instead.  Look here for other poems, but here are some more.

Human Experience is not a test
Can you assess my state of happiness?
Can you score it out of five?
Can you really pass or fail a test
That tells if you're truly alive?
Is joy a quantifiable trait?
Can you plot it on a graph?
Do you score a special funny point
Every time you laugh?
Is empathy a transferable skill?
Can others give feedback?
Telling you if there are traits
In which they think you lack?
I don't think you can pass an exam
In love or contemplation
I don't think you can get an NVQ
In passion or in meditation
Hope cannot be learnt from a book
Grace cannot be easily taught
Peace cannot be summed up in lesson
Just because you think it ought
You cannot have a kindness target
That everyone must reach
The attainment of gentleness
Is not something you can teach
The fruits of spirit and soul
Need space and time to grow
They cannot be cultivated in league tables
Or seen in "tell and show"
Spirit cannot be marked and scored
Even if you wanted to
Because human experience is not an exam
ONLY YOU can A* you

"My Wings" poem
19 March 2010

My wings enfold me and I sigh
A tear drops slowly and I cry
I look straight down and all I see
Is my sea of tears and they're drowning me
My wings are heavy, a tear-soaked burden
I don't want to feel this, of that I'm certain
Wings are meant to be freeing and light
They should be magical, an instrument of flight
But my bad mood has taken hold
And my wings are completely soaked and cold
All my self doubts come crashing in
And all my worries they begin
To suffocate and trap my feelings
Stifle me and stop me breathing
I have to stop, adjust my perspective
To halt the turmoil and over-reactive
Dark side mumblings that float around me
Clouding focus and deadening me
So I look back up and see my wings
These beautiful, feathery, golden things
They can be magic, light and free
If only I can stop and truly see
That my gifts are numerous like the feathers
They can cause problems and feel like tethers
Or I can count them as a blessing
Try to use them and keep learning
Practice outside my comfort zone
My gifts and qualities to hone
Like a fledgling bird's first flight
Keep on trying with all my might
So I am grounded with my wings
With the freedom flying brings
A lofty escape from oughts and shoulds
An ethereal release to maybes and coulds
My wings spread out and I am free
The wind blows around and it lifts me
Perspective changes as I climb higher
Things seem smaller and not so dire
I feel grounded in the air
A contradiction but I don't care
My arms are open, a wide embrace
And I soar higher in my space
I circle and let out a joyous scream
Envisage my life as my perfect dream
Where my gifts and soul fly together
Not as burdens or a tether
When I feel low or feel like crying
My wings can stretch and keep me flying
And if I need a hug or to cry
I can do that as I fly

 I am my Masterpiece (moving forwards in giant small steps)
I don't know where that title came from but I am sticking with it!!!
31 January 2010

I sit quietly with myself
My spirit is here
I see through the sadness
And my purpose is clear
I will continue to ponder
Work out my issues
Battle to my core
I may need some tissues!
There will be sadness and sobbing
Doubts and reflection
But also joy and dancing
Time to be and meditation
Searching and enthusing
I am here to be me
Consciously work towards
The best me I can be
I may need a short break
When my sadness need space
But will always resume searching
At my own pace
I won't beat myself up
For these lapses of contentment
It's all a learning experience
Not needless entrapment
So here I sit quietly
Changing and growing
Small steps, giant leaps
New behaviours a-sowing
Acceptance, forgiveness
Justified grumpiness
Wholesome, loving
Intuitive faithfulness
Unique, special
I am one of a kind
Emotional, spiritual
Not just a mind
My poems are my language
My body, my shrine
My writing, my rhythm
That beats out in time
So pick up your sticks
Come drum with me
Let's dance and be merry
And be the best we can be

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Pretty stuff made for York Incredible Edible Bike Rides

There are a series of Incredible Edible Bike Rides planned for York to coincide with the Tour De France - read more about them on Facebook here.  To make these rides more fun Ryan, my kids and I decided to make some fun hama bead things related to growing fruit and veg and the Tour De France.  Here are the results:
  Here is a yellow carrot Here is ds's interpretation of a marigold and Ryan's version of a flowering chive

Here is ds's interpretation of alpine strawberries and carrots

Here is ds's interpretation of a marigold and Ryan's version of lavender

Here are all the things that were made as if they were in the ground.  From the left there are:
alpine strawberries, carrots, alpine strawberries, yellow carrots, lavender, carrot, chamomile, carrot, pea, swiss chard, yellow carrots, chive and a deformed carrot!!

Here is then the full lot of what was produced by ds, dd and Ryan.  Ds made the bike in the colours of the French flag as well as the TIM logo which can be seen below next to the actual logo.  Dd made the Minion and horse.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

January Juicy Jewels

Let's start with a wonderful example of how we are so down on ourselves about our appearance and not being good enough - watch here.  Notice how the women describe themselves in negative terms but describe others in positive terms.

Fantastic beach art - view here.

Watch a free diver spend four minutes holding his breath and diving into an abyss.

Watch the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy's film Enough is Enough here.  It is the based on the book 'Enough is Enough' by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill.  It is a book about the need for a new kind of economy.  Due to the overuse of the earth's finite resources and excessive consumption failing to improve our lives Dietz and O'Neill give us a realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of economic growth. "They explore specific strategies to conserve natural resources, stabilize population, reduce inequality, fix the financial system, create jobs, and more – all with the aim of maximizing long-term well-being instead of short-term profits."

Silliness that resulted in 3 men being charged with removing food due for landfill from an Iceland skip.  Read here.  Luckily after much petition signing the case was dropped by the CPS.

Ashton Kutcher's Teen Choice Awards sppech - watch here or read the good bits here -
"I wanted to share [some] things [which] I think helped me be here today. So, it’s really 3 things. The first thing is about opportunity. The second thing is about being sexy. And the third thing is about living life.

So first opportunity. I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13 I had my first job with my Dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job in a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job, and every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.

Number two. Being sexy. The sexiest thing in the entire world, is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less, so don’t buy it. Be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous.

The third thing is something that I just re-learned when I was making this movie about Steve Jobs. And Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get in too much trouble, and maybe get an education and get a job and make some money and have a family.

But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us that we call life was made up by people who are no smarter than you, and you can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life. Don’t live one, build one. Find your opportunities, and always be sexy."

Scary music video where a woman gets photo-shopped throughout the video.  Watch here.

An interesting article about why phonics don't work - read here.

Five foods that are costing the earth - read here but if you don't want to, they are bluefin tuna (bluefin populations don't stand up to heavy fishing pressure), conventional coffee (substantial use of herbicides, pesticides, etc.), factory-farmed beef (replacing tropical forest for corn and soy to feed the cows), genetically modified corn (violates many sustainable boundaries) and palm oil (rainforest destruction).

Great fake underground signs - see here.

Fantastic artist - she does charcoal with her whole body - see here - it's amazing.

Fab acrobatic gymnastic routine - see here.

Look at the state of the world through pictures of where different children around the world sleep.

Mapping emotions of the body - see here - happiness and love look pretty good.

"He doesn't wear shoes, doesn't wear shoes and brushes his teeth with a pine cone" - read about Mike Dodge who lives in a rainforest here.

family dynamics

Love Letter to My Daughter
(which I composed in the car on the way to a meeting this morning)

It’s me who doesn't see the beautiful person that you are
And the growing potential you have to be a kind and loving star
It’s me who doesn't see all the wondrous gifts you have
And all the quirky things you do to make other people laugh
It’s me who’s frosted glasses mean I cannot clearly see
The marvellous, eccentric person standing right in front of me
I need to take off those glasses and make sure I get a proper view
Of the person who stands before me, the very special you
I'm sorry that I sometimes yell at you – squashing your authentic self
Instead of nurturing those unique traits that add to your true wealth
I'm sorry that you feel that I love your brother more than you
Because you think I am more like him and daddy is more like you
Maybe sometimes that is what I show you and that is my fault and not yours
So here is my promise to you – a mother-daughter relationship clause
I will try to take the time to see you for the unique person that you are
And try to help you continue to be a kind, loving, authentic star

I have been having a hard time recently with connecting with my dd.  She’s an amazing, eccentric, quirky, beautiful, funny, joyful, caring, sharing, helpful 9 yo.  She is also very, very different to my ds whom I seem to be on the same wavelength with and so that makes the times when dd is pessimistic, unhelpful, a bit whiny, stubborn and a bit mean, more of a problem because those are not traits I would ascribe to my ds and they are traits which I find challenging especially when I am not in a good place myself.  

I love both my children unconditionally but I have to admit I do sometimes find it a lot easier to like my ds than my dd and I feel awful saying that.  And that got me thinking – why do I feel awful saying that?  When I quizzed my daughter about whether she understood, and therefore, “got on with” daddy more than me she said yes and I can totally understand why.  They have a similar outlook on life the same as ds and I do.  What I want to do though is make sure that my dd knows that I love her as much as I do my ds and that will never, never change.  I also want her to know that in life there are people who you are going to “get on with” more than others and that is ok too.  

However want I need to remember is to find a way to re-frame, or deal with, those traits which I find problematic so that they don’t grate as much.  At the same time I want to help my dd to maybe master the time and place where those traits are beneficial and don’t end up annoying or hurting people unduly.  I can totally see times when being whiny and a bit stubborn can be beneficial and even when being mean (maybe in a more constructive way) could actually have a positive outcome.  I cannot do that if I am not seeing the beautiful person my dd is under those characteristics and that is what I have been doing of late.  

As parents we have a huge responsibility to our children because we chose to have them.  My dd didn't choose to be born and also didn't choose to have those character traits that sometimes wind me up.  I have to see and nurture the best in her whatever she does and I need to love her even when I don’t feel like it.  But also I need to steer her to be the best she can be and that can never be done with putting her down or consistently having a go at her.  

I read my dd the above and asked her permission to put it on my blog.  She also said that in return for my trying to do what I have said, she will give me hugs in return.  Who could want for more than that!!

Following on a little later, my dd and I had a chat about stuff and we came up with the idea that she could make a badge that reads “I am upset and will talk about it when I am ready.”  This is because she says that she thinks she can be more annoying or whingey when she feels upset but that she doesn't always want to talk about it then.  We are going to try it and see if it works and she is also going to make one for daddy too!!!

This reminded me of the fact that a while ago dd, ds and I had a major discussion about how dd annoys ds and vice versa.  Dd tried to vocalise that she sometimes feels pressured to say sorry or work out how she feels too quickly in these scenarios.  There is an imago relationship theory about there being a maximiser and minimiser in every relationship (read about it here.)  My dh and I can definitely attest to that.  What is interesting though with our children is that it seems that ds is a maximiser like me  - where everything has to be out in the open and sorted out now (if not sooner) - and dd is a minimiser like my dh - where they need time to mull things over.  It can be a very frustrating dynamic from both sides but I would say more so when 2 maximisers are finding 1 minimiser annoying.  I had forgotten about this so having now written it as a blog post maybe I will be able to remember this minimiser/maximiser stuff and come up with other coping strategies for all of us to live life more harmoniously.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

tyre sand-pit to hugelkultur / mound garden

Deciding what to do with my tractor tyre sandpit today, my friend Ryan came up with the idea of using the tyre as a mound garden for growing squashes, courgettes or asparagus.  

Ryan got the idea from the book "Forest Gardening" by Robert A de J Hart and "The Permaculture Garden" by Graham Bell. Having made that decision we got on with it whilst also clearing the bottom of the garden which is covered in wood for the stove which needs sorting and chopping.

The great thing about this idea was that we could use the trimmings from pruning the massively overgrown hedge as part of this plan as well as some of the sand from the sandpit; some of the rotten logs and kindling from the log-pile and some of the apple tree prunings.  

We could also start emptying our compost bins and use that. So as not to have to totally empty the sandpit we decided to do the conversion in 3 stages. 

The idea of mound gardens originated in China and is used a lot in Germany hence the name 'Hugelkultur' or German Mound   We started by clearing some of the sand to make a trench about one-foot deep.  This spare sand will be mixed with compost in containers and used for growing carrots and other veg.

We then piled up woody material such as small branches, hedge cuttings and apple tree prunings.  This makes a porous core which enables air and water to circulate freely.  
We used rotten logs from the log-pile that were not going to burn well, followed by smaller twigs and then the fresh hedge trimmings.

We covered the hedge trimmings with compost from the compost bins and started the middle section.
Having discovered a big bag of well-rotted chicken poo we decided that could be used as well. So the first two sections got a good dose of chicken manure on top of the hedge trimmings.

This isn't the conventional way that a German Mound is made but in true permaculture-style we used what was easily available at the time.  The worms seemed happy enough!!

We then moved all the sand left in the sandpit on top of the first two sections and started phase three.  Again rotten wood and apple tree prunings made the base.  Followed by hedge trimmings straight from the hedge.

Then compost bin compost and sand to cover the whole lot.  At this point it just looks like the sand-pit we started with earlier in the day until we finished it off with some bagged compost we had lying around in the garden.

Now I just need to get some squashes, courgettes and maybe asparagus seedlings growing so I can transplant them and see what happens.