Journal entry 5 – changing routine, work cycles, daylight hour adjustment, permaculture lives…

Last week was one in which my routine changed yet again. ‘Computer work’ was dealt with mainly between my core nap and my first of three napes for the day, i.e. between approximately 1 and 5 a.m., (I’m a polyphasic sleeper; see previous blog posts for more info) and not throughout the day again, as was often the case in previous months. This work consisted mainly of general research for the Ph.D. I’ve found it rather slow going since submitting the proposal – it was a very specific little piece of work to produce, and as such had its own challenges, but now I face the proverbial blank page again and need to get into the swing of things in this regard.

With the new chapter of academic work being at the ‘drawing board’ stage, I’ve found that I’m not very productive research-wise during the daylight hours. These hours come with their own ‘distractions’ – chores, food, people, etc. – so any work done at this time is usually in short bursts and needs to be very focused. Not yet being in that kind of head-space, last week I found myself busy outside from dawn through to dusk, stopping mainly for snack and meal times, and my naps. During the heat of the day, I get out of the sun and usually see to chores in the shade, e.g. dish-washing and tidying. I need to work my meditation and some stretching exercise into the new routine though – I’ve been doing them sporadically but would like them to be part of a more consistent structure.

So last week the daylight hours were mainly dedicated to doing the topping up of the raised beds that featured in the previous blog post, as well as compost turning and making. This equates to a lot of wheelbarrow and spade work, which I tried to avoid for most of the Summer seeing as I find it too excruciatingly hot to do such heavy work in +28 degrees Celsius temps. There were other similar ‘heavy-ish’ tasks as well, for example fetching off-cut and reject wood for rocket-stove fuel and later projects, and several loads of horse-manure. The work has been physically demanding – I became used to such demands during the first year and several months of being on the plot, when every necessity of life required building something from scratch, and when organic matter had to be moved en mass, but I slowed down this year since the academic commitments had to be prioritised.

It’s been interesting adapting to the later sun rises and earlier sun sets; the latter occur at around 07:00 and the former around 17:40. This restricts outside work time considerably compared to the Summer. For the first time I really feel like a farmer, a figure with a reputation for being adapted to the patterns of sunrise and sunset. In this regard I also feel like I’m more in tune with a rhythm that comes more naturally – it is one that continuously changes alongside the seasons and accompanying weather patterns, a rhythm that our ancestors evolved with and which therefore played a crucial role in shaping our conceptual frameworks as a species. Unsurprising then that the bog-standard constant routine I lived by when working the UK eventually became too much for me to handle – it felt unnatural and sterile; the change to a more ‘in tune’ rustic life back home in South Africa has allowed me to be able to reflect on my life’s journey so far with added perspective, and this perspective has come about alongside a respect for and cooperation with nature.

Finally, things at the plot are coming along nicely now that both my partner and I have respectively dealt with the heaviest aspects of our academic commitments for the year. We both have to deal with large chunks of commitments in this regard at different times of the year; being slightly older now (early thirties), and having almost two years of permaculture-style living under our belts, it is much easier to have patience during the times when we cannot dedicate ourselves to the gardens etc. as much as we like. Sure, we could have had far more vegetables growing now had we been available to prepare beds and plant seeds etc. earlier in the year, but then again it was and is necessary for us to earn our incomes. It seems that it all balances out in the end, but it takes some time to realise this fully after rejecting the status-quo. In a sense, this permaculture project cannot be separated from the kind of lives that its participants lead: intimate connections are realised on many levels.