This principle says make hay while the sun shines. In permaculture circles it’s often used to refer to capturing heat from the sun by building houses with lots of windows, or capturing rainwater to use later in the garden, or preserving fruit or even cheese when there is lots available to eat later when fresh things are scarce.
By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need (from here)
I’ve thought about this quite a bit lately – not in relation to capturing heat from the sun (although it has been rather chilly round here and some extra warmth wouldn’t go amiss), but in relation to my own personal energy.
I don’t work full time any more, but I still work four days a week, and on two of those days I’m out of the house for nearly 13 hours, including four hours of travelling. I have a regular commitment one evening a week (usually one of the days I’m also travelling to work), and I am involved in two voluntary projects that take varying levels of time and energy, whether that’s replying to emails, meetings in the pub or shovelling compost. My flute lessons have dropped back to an hour a fortnight, but for the last few months they’ve been two hours a week, and our flute choir meets for an entire morning once a month too. Then there’s running (er, sometimes), gardening, house-related things (occasionally), and that’s without ordinary socialising and time to myself.
Sometimes it feels like I don’t have much energy left.
When I’m having a busy week, some things inevitably slip. I stay up late, get up late, and end up getting the bus to the train station rather than walking. Sometimes I’m so late I don’t get chance to eat breakfast, so I buy it at the station. If I’ve been out the night before, I won’t have made lunch to take to work, so I buy it in a cafe. Sometimes I’m so tired when I come in from work that I don’t have the energy to start cooking, so I eat cereal for tea. That doesn’t help with longer term energy levels I’m sure.
If I dash in from work then out again ten minutes later, I’m likely to throw my bag on the kitchen floor, discard clothes in the bathroom, and scatter things everywhere in my haste. Then when I come back it’s late, and I don’t want to tidy up, and it gets harder and harder to find things, so more things get scattered, and so it goes on (please tell me I’m not the only one!)
The point of this sob story isn’t to make you feel sorry for me – I bring everything on myself by taking on too many things at once, and quite clearly I need to learn how to say ‘no’ (or at least ‘not right now’). The point is that I could make things easier for myself by catching my energy when I have it, and using it in times of need.
In the past I’ve spent entire evenings cooking rice and dried beans to put in the freezer, meaning when I get in tired and hungry, a decent meal only takes a few minutes to prepare. I’ve not done this for a while though. Sometimes I try and try to make flapjacks for quick and mobile breakfasts, but they’re just so tasty we often eat all of them before the next morning (oh dear!)
One habit I have got into is getting my bag ready for work the night before, and deciding what clothes to wear. I’m uselessly indecisive in the mornings, and have been known to miss my train trying to decide which tights to put on (try explaining that one at work). Taking those few minutes in the evening, even when I don’t feel like it, makes all the difference. Now I just need to add in preparing lunch too.
There are other things this principle applies to as well. Saving money is the obvious one – whether that’s putting aside a regular amount for a rainy day, or making small savings (which quickly add up) by shopping around, buying second hand, and fixing things rather than buying new. My success at this varies too – I saved a lot when working full time, and my £2 coin stash has reached £62 again now (after the first £100 was shared between my credit union account and charity). Most of my clothes are second hand, and I at least put things in piles to fix rather than throwing them away, but lately I’ve found myself losing patience with shopping around, and instead buying the most convenient thing (not necessarily a bad thing, but spending more means working more in the long term, and that’s something I’d like to avoid).
The other thing this principle makes me think of is not putting things off until tomorrow. If you have the opportunity and the energy to do something, do it now – tomorrow you might be tired, or full of cold, or someone might invite you out for the day and it would be nice to say yes without wishing you’d done whatever-it-was yesterday. I’m not entirely sure about this – sometimes the very thing is to ignore something until tomorrow. But today I spent two hours collecting and delivering compost for the community garden, and while it was hard work and so cold, I’m glad I did because it turns out we’re due yet more snow tomorrow.
Perhaps the thing to take away from this principle is that if you want to slow down, perhaps work less, make life easier for yourself, it takes some forethought and a bit of preparation. You can’t use your own handmade soap if you didn’t spend an evening making it six weeks ago, and two minutes before you leave for work is not the time to be thinking about making lunch.
That said, you don’t have to spend all your time preparing. Throwing home grown rhubarb and tomatoes straight in the freezer just as they are is much better than letting them rot because you didn’t quite get round to preserving them ‘properly’. Taking some of your lunch to work is better than taking none (or so I keep telling myself).
After all this pondering, there are a few things I’d like to do:
(1) spend a couple of hours each week batch cooking, and making sure I have lunches for work
(2) get to the end of the washing basket (this has been known to happen in the past, very occasionally)
(3) buy a water butt for the garden
I reckon that’s enough to be getting on with this month.
What about you? How do you store energy (of whatever kind) when you have it? Are you a Batch Cooker Extraordinaire? Do you always manage to take lunch to work? Do you save all your waste water for the garden? Do you get ahead when you feel really motivated to give yourself a bit of slack when you don’t? What else does this principle make you think about?