This week I was called to Howar when June discovered a group of shore sheep in her fields. Wandering past a group of alpaca, investigating the fence line to identify possible points where they were breaking in, nothing was obvious, until the sheep started jumping through the fence back onto the shore! The fence post are in a very sandy area and they had become quite loose, so the sheep were managing to push the fence at and angle and jump through the wire. Olly and I set to straightening them and bashing them into the ground.
After being inspired by the documentary Inhabit (watch it free here), this week we finished a 2 week introductory course in permaculture. The term permaculture comes from the words permanent and agriculture. Agriculture comes from “agri” meaning soil and “cultura” meaning cultivation. Permaculture is not only about sustainable and self sufficiency, it is about regenerating land and systems: improving soil and the water cycle, increasing biodiversity, increasing resilience to climate change, and so on. Permaculture is based on 3 ethical principles: Earth Care (without a thriving planet we have nothing, soil, water and air need to be protected and regenerated), People Care (looking after self, kin and community) and Fair Share (taking no more than we need or sharing surplus).
Its very handy that so many things have gone online due to lockdown, it gives us much more access from our remote location. The course was run by Social Landscapes over 4 evenings and introduced the basics of Permaculture, showing how the design methodology can profoundly change the way we look at the world and engage in it. I particularly liked hearing about community permaculture projects around the UK and further afield. The course took place face to face over zoom with ~18 others, breaking out into small groups to discuss and complete exercises. I can highly recommend the course, which they will be running again online in September. Find out more here.
As a long term project it will be something I will use fully when we settle somewhere and design a permaculture forest garden, but the principles can be incorporated into so many aspects of everyday life, including our vegetable garden, chickens and hopefully community projects on the island.
Michel, who ran the course, recommended an online gig by 3 Acres and a Cow this weekend. It was ana evening of grazing on stories, songs and history in a virtual field. They describe themselves as a show "that connects the Norman Conquest and Peasants’ Revolt with climate change and the housing crisis via the Enclosures, English Civil War and Industrial Revolution, drawing a compelling narrative through the people’s history of England in folk song, story and poem". The tickets from the show were raising money to fund a children's version of the show called 3 Acres and a Calf. We heard from some very talented performers and learnt a lot, all round a very entertaining evening. They have more shows coming up here.
Orkney Science International Festival is moving online this September and I have been helping to organise speakers. It is a great opportunity to reach and engage with a wider audience. On Thursday 3rd September there will be an afternoon coming to the festival from North Ronaldsay. The first group of talks will focus on the genetics and diet of North Ronaldsay sheep, and the discovery that seaweed in the diet of livestock can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The second group of talks will look at resources on the coast, from turning ocean plastic litter into filament for 3D printing, to using artificial marine structures to enhance biodiversity and the wool provided by the North Ronaldsay sheep who live on the shore.