Monday, December 27, 2010

Global Warming - Cold Isn't It?

Climate Change, Climate Destabilisation, Climate Chaos....
Here's an article that helps to make some sense of the cold weather we're having in the UK at the moment in the face of global warming. I suspect it may not be the last time we hear of the Arctic Dipole, a pattern which has appeared over the last ten years of high pressure over the American side of the Arctic and low pressure over the Eurasian side.

Scroll down past the Welsh photos to Part Two of the article, "The November-December 2010 freeze in context".

NASA Temperature Anomalies chart for Nov 2010: While we've been extra-cold, some of the usually extra-cold parts of the world have been unusually warm...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Loud As You Like - Sneak Preview !!

We do so much internet stuff anyway that we have been branching out into doing sites and blogs for other people too - here's a pre-launch preview of the stunning and very loud LOUD AS YOU LIKE website we have been doing for a friend's Tanzanian clothing. Site set-up and words by Steve, images by me:

...yes that's loud alright...

Everyday Life On the Edge...

A Permaculture Saying: "If you're not on the edge you're taking up too much space." 

We're on the edge here in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant alright! Geographically, we're very close to the border with England and also on the edge of the wilderness of the Berwyn mountains.The edge is a good place to be, it's where activity is often concentrated, whether its the edge of woodland, along the coastline or in our bodies through the membranes of the lungs, digestive system etc. In Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, you could say Steve and I are working at an edge, the one between modern day chemical agri-business and its sustainable successor, Permaculture.

Here in Powys we are surrounded by a beautiful, gently rolling landscape of small, sheep-spattered fields. The bad news is that those lovely fields produce just 2% of the food that is consumed in Powys and generally it costs more to shear those sheep than the wool is worth.Thankfully, the countryside is too hilly to have been put through the full-blown ravages of modern agriculture. It may be hard enough for farms here to make the transition away from oil but easier than it's going to be for some giant patch of the Shropshire plains, borrowed and leased for millions and mortgaged up to the hilt for decades ahead with just two or three people plying endlessly up and down the deserts on giant machines. It's difficult to see how they can make an easy transition to using one sixth of the energy they use at the moment (remembering that fertilisers and pesticides are just another form of energy as well).

The good news is that left to its own devices much of the land would soon revert to forest. (See the work of Chris Dixon.). The thoughtful, Permaculture approach is to work with that natural process and to steer it gently towards what you would like from the land. Instead of a high energy input, monoculture-desert, net loss landscape, the forest can be gardened to give us so much: food, fuel, materials, shelter, shade, water, energy, medicinal herbs, fodder crops for animals as well as fostering bio-diversity and being drought, disease and pest-resistant. And all the time building Earth capital instead of burning it up. (See earlier post about our Permaculture Design Course at Treflach Farm, farm in transition). We are teaching a two week Permaculture Design course again at Treflach from 8th to 21st May 2011, have our next Forest Gardening course on 22nd Jan 2011, and our first ever Treecare course covering pruning, planting and general woodland management is coming up on 5th & 6th Feb 2011. (More details and booking).

!! New Course !! Pruning & Basic Woodland Management for complete beginners onwards

We're really looking forward to working with progressive thinking Ian Steele at Treflach again.

And we are itching to get started on our own land-based project at PenY Garnedd where we will demonstrate all of this on our co-operatively owned 23 acre edge. Latest news is that the sale is going through.

Titanic 2 - Full Steam Ahead !!

Life on Earth surges full steam ahead towards Multi-Catastrophe on board some doomed Titanic 2 piloted by deaf, dumb and blind politicians in the pocket of deaf, dumb and blind Big Biz - and this time the ship is already creaking at the seams and popping its rivets. Which catastrophe first? Climate Chaos, Peak Everything, Drought, Famine, Financial Collapse, Resource Wars, Extinctions, Ice Sheet Collapse...or maybe all of them together? With ice on the menu, here's a little morsel in that chilly vein: Antarctic Ice Melting,  and if the image of a six foot sea level rise over this century doesn't send a shiver down your spine what will?

...or maybe everythings alright really and these problems have all been dreamed up by a gang of scare-mongering Hippy New Age Illuminati hell-bent on spoiling your fun? I don't think so...but don't believe me, do some research for yourself, go to the sources, GET READING, GET THINKING, GET TALKING AND GET READY !!

...AND just one more thing, START YOUR READING HERE: President Nasheed of the Maldives speaking to the Oxford Student Union earlier this month; transcript on Steve's Blog,

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

James Howard Kunstler - Clusterfuck Nation

If you've not heard of this guy have a read of Kunstler ripping into the General State of Things in the USA on his blog, Clusterfuck Nation. Sometimes compared to Hunter S. Thompson, he certainly rips into the deceit, complacency and catastrophe-waiting-to-happen all around. Here is a couple of extracts from "The Jobs Picture"

"The clarion cries of "recovery" cut painfully through the crisp pre-Christmas air while the now-perpetually unemployed huddle in their tents around the Sacramento delta, and the state AGs slug it out with the foreclosure goons, and not a few mortgage payment drop-outs enjoy luxury living in McMansions with no monthly carrying costs, and the minions of Goldman Sachs (with fellow squids) groom their beaks waiting for the massive chum slick of bonus checks to be dropped by helicopters in this the third holiday season since Wall Street committed suicide by an overdose of Ponzi."

Yeah! and...

"If you want something like gainful employment in the years ahead, don't rely on the corporations, the government, or anyone with a work station equipped cubicle. Start reading up on gardening and harness repair. Learn how to fix a pair of shoes. Volunteer for EMT duty if you're already out of a paycheck, and learn how to comfort people in medical distress. Jobs of the future will be hands-on and direct. I have no idea what medium of exchange you'll get paid with, but a chicken is a good start."

I think he's right...and are we far behind in the UK...?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roundhouse at Cwm Harry - on the road again

Now that we have the paths finished at Cwm Harry, save for a bit of packing down and final dressing, we're turning our attention to the ROUNDHOUSE. This is intended to be a gathering point, demonstration of sustainable building, teaching resource, tool store and of course tea break hut for the project.

We have decided to simplify the original design and go for a reciprocating roof, with sedum covering. The upright posts are already in place so its been a question of re-planning things from there.

Lianne, Sue, Wayne, Sharon, Jocelyn and myself putting in the upright posts earlier this year.

I've helped to build a roundhouse at Lammas, (see earlier posts: Nigel and Cassie's roundhouse and Simon and Jasmine's roundhouse.) I haven't been involved in the design before though, so this is a really exciting project for me. In my long erratic working life I've used my schoolboy geometry a lot in making all sorts of things, guitars, buildings, pyramids etc. etc... So the bit I find really interesting is the RECIPROCATING ROOF. This is a clever way of making a large span with no supporting columns cluttering up the space. It's also possible to make one with tree trunks pretty much straight from the forest, so it's low-impact and low-cost if you have woodland anywhere near you. A roof like this could be put on any shape of building, we just happen to like the round floor plan. Yurts, teepees and other round homes make very sympathetic living space; you don't feel you're stuck in yet another box.

In a reciprocating roof, each of the beams supports its neighbour. It's possible to build one with any number of roof beams from three upwards.

(This drawing is from an interesting site: The Pavilion)

The final roof structure is self-supporting and puts no outwards horizontal force onto the wall structure, so it is really clever. (Our upright posts form a twenty-sided polygon of about 19 foot diameter and I've drawn up a plan with ten roof beams. This gives a beam between every second post, which will work out symmetrically over the doorway. We'll have to kick up two of the beams to give space for a full height door but will check that works on a scale model first.

Here's the plan so far:
Roof pole plan, doorway and arch detail and side elevation allowing for full height door.

Looking up into Nigel and Cassie's roof with the main ten roof beams as well as  the secondary ten in place. The blue sky was a rare sight last November...
This is the interior of a roundhouse that Simon built one or two before his Lammas houses. The main beams are filled in with smaller lateral poles to take the weight of the finished living roof...

...of the house known as The Hobbit House, for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Friday, November 05, 2010

Up we go...

You might find it interesting to compare this article in the FT about Peak Oil (which misses the point that oil discoveries peaked somewhere between 1961 and 1964) with something a bit more thorough on the same topic from the Oil Drum. Meanwhile, up the price goes:

The well-researched, rational, experienced voices are saying we have a problem. This is going to effect every aspect of YOUR life - wouldn't it be a good idea to do a bit of research yourself and see what you come up with?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Back from Rivendell

I was helping Steve with the six month Permaculture course for the Llandrindod Wells Transition group over the weekend. The setting at our friends' Ros and Brian's house, Nannerth Ganol, was just stunning; we feel we've been at a Council of the Elders with Elrond. Apart from being a wild and beautiful place there's a powerful ancestral energy up there. The house is over 500 years old but is surely the site of settlements going back for as long as there have been people anywhere in the country.
Steve took this shot the morning just before we left.

The "Peakists" have won

Full Article at Oil Drum:
This is Dr James Schlesinger giving one of the keynote talks at the recent ASPO-USA Conference. Dr. Schlesinger comes with a wealth of experience: He was the first Secretary of Energy, from 1977 - 1979. Prior to that, he had been Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, US Secretary of Defense, and Director of Central Intelligence.
The video can be viewed (for free) at ASPO-TV. The article includes the text of his 11 minute talk, talking about the fact that oil production has been flat for six years. The "Peakists" have won the intellectual debate, but the political order will not respond......are YOU responding yet?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Walking Stories - A great website

I've been meaning for ages to post up this site by a guy I met at A Friend's of the Earth meeting in Dundee, Andrew Llanwarne. Check out:  Walking Stories for atmospheric photos and tales of Japan, China, Peru, Mexico etc etc etc, even Scotland!...and you won't even get your boots wet let alone have to fly anywhere.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan, China

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Land purchase going ahead!

This is getting really exciting now!  This is what I've wanted to be part of for years, a full blown, land based project where we can develop forest gardening, aqua-culture, coppicing, green woodworking, low impact structures, run courses, offer retreats and treatment, and bring people and diversity back to the landscape. And all within a co-operative framework; more at: Permanent Housing Co-op. If you would like to be involved or to invest in the project please get in touch, we hope to attract a number of smaller investors in the £500 to £10,000 range rather than a few bigger ones. Triodos Bank has given outline support, having helped to finance two other Permanent Co-op projects already. Many congratulations to Steve on getting the project moving, I know how much energy he has put into this!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Permaculture Design Course - October 2010 - Treflach Farm

What an inspiring couple of weeks and what an awesome bunch of people!
I've helped out on many CranioSacral Therapy courses in the past with wonderful groups of participants but this was an extra-special experience. Permaculture is a fascinating and powerful process, empowering people to work creatively with the patterns of nature and helping them to work together as a group; and it keeps them grounded and in contact with the Earth, unlike some therapist and healers I can think of.... It was sad when the day came for the group to go their separate ways but I know we'll all meet again and will all be involved in many amazing projects around the world in the future.

More about Permaculture and this course on Steve's blog here, and the Sector 39 website here.

Treflach Farm is already in the Transition process, looking for ways to reduce the need for fossil fuel input and to diversify. Being a small, hundred acre farm, the cost of fuel has already had a serious effect. As Ian Steel of Treflach says: "Peak Oil has already happened for us, every time I hear a tractor start up my heart sinks because I know we can't afford it."

If "Peak Oil" means nothing to you, or you think it doesn't apply to you then WAKE UP before you're rudely woken up. We are currently using 10 calories of fossil fuel for every single food calorie we produce. Our Western way of life mostly depends on cheap plentiful fossil fuel for materials, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, heat and light etc etc as well as transport. Yes, there's loads of oil left but it is getting harder and harder to extract it. New discoveries peaked in 1964. Renewables form about 1% of the energy we are currently using. There's not that much uranium either. In a few years time we are likely to be starting down the slippery slope of diminishing supplies - so WAKE UP! and start reading, thinking and talking about it for yourself or alternatively just stick your head back in the sand. If you do want to wake up and scratch the bubble of complacency around you here's a good place to start: The Oil Drum.

The course participants came from a wonderful range of backgrounds, including a gentleman from the oil industry itself who now lectures on Peak Oil within the industry and another who travelled around Wales in a horse drawn caravan for several years, can you get a much wider range than that? They studied the Permaculture principles then put them into practice with designs for the whole farm to reduce fuel inputs, bring back more people onto the farm and re-build bio-diversity. The wealth of ideas and solutions that came up were just staggering. Steve teaches it all with depth of knowledge, great personal experience of Permaculture projects, with tremendous passion, humour, enthusiasm and all from the heart. The group responded by opening up and working together with huge energy. It was a lot of fun too! Singing went on late round the teepee fire some nights - funny how you find you can't remember the words to any songs however much you have heard them...

I loved feeling part of the Transition Agriculture process, right at the sharp end on the land itself. Most of us were camping in out on one of the farm's fields during the course. Some nights were very clear, away from street lights the cold bright stars reminded me how extraordinary it is to have our life here on the planet and how we take so much for granted.

check out: some extraordinary developments with distant treatment group
At last I feel several strands of my own life coning together, stuff I've been preoccupied with for years: the need to continue to explore the therapy and healing process but to do that within the development of sustainable way of life. In some ways it was just a simple practical thing like giving a tai chi, chi kung class in the morning but I also explored ideas like the worldwide shift in consciousness with the group. I can't tell you how good that feels after ten years of searching and shifting!
Farm in transition

It took Faze three days to eat that apple

Apple juicing

Matching apples and jumper

I reach for the forbidden fruit...

John the Horse fires up his charcoal kiln

How to make apple crumble

Keeping a watchful eye on the farm

Green woodworking

Happy pig

This house at Sych Pwll is actually....

...a caravan, so different planning regulations apply. Nice one, Pete.

Thor laying path at Cwm Harry

Minstrels at a wedding

This throw went out of bounds in the Welly Throwing Competition

Outdoor PDC class

More plans

I made this pyramid out of hazel poles with Faze and was pleasantly surprised when it actually got used quite a lot...'s now in my bedroom and I'm sure it's contributing to some recent blissful sleep

Oh dear...

Sue spinning by the teepees

Best Tai Chi class I've ever had.

And what will Timmy the Transition Tractor do in the future?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dimensions beyond 3D space and time

 6d - Hypercube (Tesseract) from Too Lang on Vimeo.

My understanding is that part of the evolution of life on Earth is the development of our ability to perceive and work within dimensions beyond 3D space and time. My therapy work has been going off into extraordinary directions recently (see Distant Treatment Group page on my health website). I met a very interesting guy, John Wragg, during the October PDC course, an artist working at Sych Pwll who is exploring, amongst other things, the shadows cast by objects with five or more dimensions onto 2D surfaces. The video clip above is just that. Do have a look at this page on my health site too: Further Dimensions - Art & Healing. My hope is that we can learn and relearn skills and come to a deeper understanding of how life works just in the nick of time...

Pictures working again!

At last I can upload pictures to Blogger again!
This is a shirt from the Website Loud-As-You-Like which Steve and I have been putting together for a friend.
Great to be doing some graphic design stuff - I love the variety in my working life at the moment! Nice and loud alright...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

On the Eco Edge...

We have been working on Permaculture publicity and produced some posters - have a look and please print out and put up any that resonate with you. I can't get my images to upload to blogger at the moment so have put the posters and some photos on facebook for now:

link to Facebook for posters and photos

I can't believe it's two months since I set off from Perth with the Bike and Grand Piano Combo! What an amazing time its been since then, seeing old friends and making new ones and exploring this bit of Wales, new to me. My original plan was to cycle through Wales and then maybe on through France to Portugal but as John Lennon said, "Life's what happens when you're making other plans"...

When I arrived at Llanfyllin to help my old friend Steve Jones for a while I found I've  come at a time when a lot of his projects are coming to the boil. I've always liked working with Steve and am full of admiration for all he has done over the years on projects such as CAT and Chickenshack as well as his Permaculture teaching and TV work. My odd mix of experience and skills fits in well so we had the idea to moved into our brilliant flat in Llanrhaeadr-Ym-Mochnant, in Powys. We're mainly working on:

Sector39: running courses on Permaculture and skills for Sustainability. and projects such as Cwm Harry, the community garden project. As well as all that we are planning a co-operatively owned permaculture small holding, low-impact development and research institute for developing and teaching skills for sustainability on a 23 acre plot near the village at Pen Y Garnedd. This is the big project and just the sort of thing I have been hoping to get involved with for a long time. I'm absolutely delighted that after all these years of eco-wandering I've found myself working on really crucial, long term stuff and with a bunch of like minded folk with an extraordinary range of skills between them. It's nice that all the skills and experience I've picked up over the years are useful in the eco-world: woodwork, gardening, tree-care, building work, scale drawing, graphics and photos, writing and of course therapy/healing work... I like plenty of variety in my working life so it all suits me just FIIIIINE!

"AND DON'T FORGET TO BOOGIE!" (as Bob Hite of Canned Heat used to say)
And it's a lot of fun here too, not least because Steve is a fellow Blues & Boogie enthusiast. The Chickenshack name was appropriate for many reasons but one is that there is a sixties'  blues band of the same name, (featuring Stan Webb on guitar - he's still going strong by the way). I remember arriving at Chickenshack for the first time a few years ago and noticing that there were an awful lot of guitars in the kitchen... and a Fender Rhodes electric piano... not many kitchens are equipped with one of those. I had a funny feeling that it all boded well and I was right.

(Just as a wee side note, I actually saw Canned Heat way back in the seventies with my great chum Stone at the Raith Ballroom in Kirkcaldy, Fife of all places. They were EPIC! The Bear and Henry Vestine in the line up - one of the best gigs I ever went to.)

I'm still mainly using just the stuff I brought down with me on the bike: four changes of clothes, a laptop, sleeping bag, camping mattress and assorted bits and pieces. Steve has a good collection of cooking stuff and has kindly loaned me a gent's wardrobe but it's nice to have basically minimal stuff and clutter. How much do you really need anyway?

Finally, many thanks to Ralph Arbus for letting us use a couple of his orangutan photos - check out his work here.

Bye for now, ian xx

Monday, August 09, 2010

Green Woodworking/Yurt Making with Sector 39 - August 2010

Just a bit about this course for now, more coming soon 

I helped Steve run this course up at Farm2Grow near Stoke-on-Trent, it was really good fun. The guys teaching, Mark, Andy and Richie have lots of experience and have developed a really good system for making the wheel, roof bars and trellis that make up a yurt.

It's not just about yurt making though, it's about the bigger world of Green Woodworking, i.e. using freshly harvested rather than dried wood, using sustainable supplies from coppiced woodland and using hand tools such as drawknives and spokeshaves for the majority of the work.

These old tools are really versatile and obviously dont need electricity, but the other big bonus is the peace and quiet. Power tools like routers and rip saws make a horrendous racket. The atmosphere on the course reminded of spending time up in the violin making school at Newark tech college where fifteen students might be working away, all thoroughly dedicated to what they were doing, the only sound the rasp of razor sharp gouges and knives on beautifully figured maple...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Breath of Welsh Air

It turns out that I've arrived at Llanfyllin just at a time when there is lots of change in the air. Steve is moving on from the Workhouse project and working on plans for several new projects through the Permanent Housing Coop. The core of this is to buy land for a permaculture site with all the features I've wanted to help to develop for years: organic market gardening, forest gardening, a forest garden nursery, a tree nursery, teaching facilities, therapy/retreat facilities and even ponds for trout. It's all really really exciting - what a great time to have turned up. Then I heard the news that the Welsh Assembly has extended the Low Impact regulations that have helped Lammas to set up their project in Pembrokeshire to the whole of Wales. It feels as if the tide has finally turned - in Wales at least.

Land hunting - another field
Powys is a lovely part of the world, a multitude of interconnecting, lush, steep sided valleys with old trees and beautiful views everywhere. It's a patchwork of small fields, a bit like a very wet, colder version of Portugal and is the second least populated part of the UK after Sutherland. I cycled over to work with Steve at Llanrhaedr the other day and came back to sleep at the Workhouse through the dusk - nice to have very little traffic but still hard work with the steep hills.

In need of modernisation - untouched since the 1930's

I helped Steve on a Permaculture Introduction weekend course which was good fun and very informative even though I've already done the course with the Brighton Permaculture Trust. Steve is inspirational, a storehouse of information, has a wealth of practical experience and boundless energy and enthusiasm - a great teacher.

Steve in full inspirational flow

Chicks at the edge of the forest garden already established at our venue, Farm2Grow

An unusal seedling to see - a baby Monkey Puzzle Tree. It bears delicious nuts after 60 years, but you need a male and a female and you can't tell them apart until they're 40 years old...patience...
It reminded me a lot of helping John and Carol with the Upledger CranioSacral Courses - lots of fun and learning all the time. If you've not studied Permaculture already sign up for a course straight away wherever you can. It gives you a framework to help you respond to change and design versatile, resilient systems at any level. I believe that we are entering a phase when Peak Oil, Climate Change and many other challenges will force a period of unprecedented upheaval on us. Permaculture will help us to adapt and get prepared as best we can. Check out: Permaculture with Steve Jones at Sector 39 and Brighton Permaculture Trust.

Cwm Harry

this is an excellent project that Steve is managing in Newtown. It's an old industrial site which is now being used to make compost from food and garden waste and has an organic garden on site as well. Many volunteers help on the site including young offenders and it's produce goes into a local veg box scheme. After just three years it shows how much good stuff can be done on a vacant lot like this.

Organic Gardening Course

I joined the Workhouse Organic Gardening course for a day. It's only 19 weeks old but is already producing lots of food from raised beds.

The insect hotel - more about this eye-opener soon. You need the aphids as well as the ladybirds.

Steve with one weeks's produce from the small plot

This system of mixing many kinds of seeds together has been helping villagers in Nepal to gain a succession of crops from the same plot. Pioneered by another Permaculturist, Chris Evans, a network of hundreds of villages now use it successfully.

I'll be writing more about this - they can be set up to help people gain access to land as well as housing, with capital and without capital.