Seasons and the flow of nature. Winter Ways.

For me, Winter has historically been the most frustrating time of year.  The end of January, the beginning of February, all the (chaotic) festivities of the previous months have come to a grinding standstill and you’re left what feels like a bleak winter wasteland.  Fa la la …feck. :/ There’s a restless sort of silence that follows until the first signs of spring start to emerge.    There’s also a restlessness born from the desire to get stuff done, and the frustration of not being able to do it.

Throughout my life, I’ve often pondered the question of “How do I deal with it?”  I’ve learned the solution to this restlessness really comes down to observing seasons and cycles and just going with the flow.  Nature has her own rhythms and it’s much easier to dance to her beat.  (Or, instead of dancing, hole up inside when it’s -30 out and drink something warm and catch up on some reading.)

In my observations, Winter proves to be a good time for planning, preparing, and resting.  This season literally forces you to slow down.    Being a hasty Aries, I sometimes have “patience issues”.  I tend to just dive in ASAP, sometimes without looking, which has it’s pitfalls.  Winter comes with a lesson, chill out.

When it comes to planning and preparing for the coming year, Winter is the best time to do it.  There’s a pause in the Holidays and all the activity that come along with them, and the weather often makes it difficult to do much outside of the house; essentially freeing you from a lot of distraction.  This gives you a chance to really put focus on the planning, research and designing of systems for (insert thing here).

I have been using this quiet time to prepare for spring, and future projects I’m working on.   One such project is growing a permaculture garden around my house.  I want to make the most use of the space I have available and also plant an effective permaculture garden that does most of the work for me and better than I could alone.  Of course this means I need to a good understanding of what this space looks like so I can most effectively plan my garden.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day mapping out the dimensions of our house and our yard.  I probably could have gotten the layout from our landlord, but this was more fun to do.  It also gave me a better idea of what we had to work with regarding space, light exposure, water retention, shade, vertical gardening and more.  I made a finished map of it on the computer in Photoshop.  This digital map will come in handy by allowing me to work with layers to move design elements easily without affecting the map itself.  I can also use it for different functions, outside or inside of the house.

After I finished designing the map, I spent the rest of the day researching plant guilds and companions for household gardens.  Many plants form symbiotic relationships and communities by adding properties that benefit the whole community, such as pest control, water retention, soil improvement, attracting good insects, shade, and many more.  I want to design a garden with a lot of different plants that serve many functions, it’s ok if some of them are the same functions, building redundancy into your garden will also help protect it from weather, bugs, and disease.  If one plant fails, another will be there to serve that same function which might have been lost otherwise.

Here are some of the links that helped me with my plant research, I found them very useful!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants
http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Garden-guilds-Plants-that-grow-in-harmony-3296632.php#photo-2443824
http://garden.menoyot.com/assets/blogAssets/garden/how_much_sunlight_is_needed.pdf

It’s clear to me I will be doing a lot of container gardening this year; a large portion of the space I have to work with is concrete (city livin’).  I will probably make some “mini-guilds” in containers and sprout them indoors.  I’ve been setting aside some recyclable containers that I can re-purpose to use as planters for seedlings.    Also,  those trays from cookie packages are perfectly shaped for sprouting seeds that you can scatter, like lettuce or spinach.  This revelation of course, brings with it my husband’s insistence that I should buy more cookies.

Anyway, in addition to planning my garden, I’m also doing a lot of research into where I live and the communities that exist here.  My husband and I haven’t lived here very long so I don’t know the landscape of who’s who and what’s what .  To fix that, I’ve added my name to the volunteer list for the Sioux City farmer’s market, figuring that volunteering would give me an opportunity to learn some stuff and get to know people.  When I heard back from the lady in charge at the Market she was happy to have more help and said she will call me when the season starts; she also suggested another volunteer opportunity I might be interested in, called “The Blue Zones Project”, which she was a part of.

I took a look at their website and was intrigued with what I saw.

“What if you had the opportunity to create a city where the healthiest choices were also the easiest ones to make? Imagine a place where it’s easy to buy fresh produce from grocery stores and farmers’ markets, not only because it’s more affordable, but also because it’s more accessible than a fast food restaurant.”

The Blue Zones Project appears to be a community based system where healthy, sustainable and local options are promoted and supported with online and community activities.  It’s funny, because I’ve been wondering if there was anything like this in my area, and apparently there is.  Though I’ve joined the BZP, I’ve only just skimmed the surface of what it’s all about, there’s a ton of stuff on the site, I have a bit more learning to do on this one.   Tis the season. 🙂

While we’re on the subject of community projects, growth, change and awakening, I’d to talk about a couple more interesting things happening right now.

Panic to Freedom (PTF), another awesome program which I’ve mentioned before.  The people of PTF are working on a ton of really cool projects right now and the stuff I’ve learned from their program has helped me a great deal.    In the past, I would have never even considered joining a community program or volunteering, that would have been too weird and “peopley”.

Truth is, I probably would have been too consumed with anxiety to attempt something community based.    Panic to freedom inspired a lot of change in me and I’m happy to say that I’ll be working with them soon, doing some writing and other stuff. 🙂  I’ve been talking with the PTF people and I’m really excited about their plans for the future and I’m honored to have the opportunity to help them out!   They are working really hard right now on updating their program and getting things ready for their new release of the program and the changes to come.

One last movement I’d like to mention is The Common Ground movement which appears to be gaining some momentum.  The Common Ground Movement is dedicated to finding that which unites us, instead of that which divides us.  There are many things even the most different minded people politically, and socially can agree on.  News and media would like us to ignore those issues, common ground looks to solving them.  I’d like to offer them more support, I think they have a lot of good ideas.  I have been promoting them online, but I want to start getting more involved with regard to my area, as well as my home state of WI.  They offer a really cool free package with information on how to do just that.  I’m reading it right now.

So here we are in winter, it’s quiet, but you could say it’s when the most important work is being done.  There are a lot of seeds out there which are getting ready to sprout, and I’m very, very excited for the future they will blossom into this coming spring.

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