November Sunshine

November brought warm sunny days and chilly nights. We worked on the land to make the most of the weather, with the short days focusing the mind. It’s a great time of year to cut the grass, clear the weeds, do some propagation and get the land ready for a winter rest.

The Land

We continued scything in the field. Although we had sowed the nitrogen fixers and green manures as ‘chop and drop’ material, we have actually been using them as ‘chop and rake into piles’. Hopefully the mulch will build soil more quickly in the localised areas where we have put it. We are also using it to kill off the vegetation in places where we want to plant trees and bushes.

I took some time to clear out the plant nursery, which I have barely glanced at since the summer. Thankfully it hasn’t needed watering much and only one plant had dried out. I threw out the things that hadn’t worked, set aside the things that hadn’t germinated but still had the possibility, and got together the plants that were ready to go out into the field. Many of them are so small that they might never come to anything, but they certainly won’t thrive in their little pots, so they might as well go out.

I sowed the next batch of seeds in the nursery and started clearing and sowing in the propagation beds, too. Some comfrey I dug up got planted out in the field where it can work on building soil.

The House

Dave spent a day or two fixing some broken tiles on the roof. The whole line of ridge tiles had to be taken down and re-cemented. Now it’s all looking ready for winter.

He has also been working on the electrical plans. He’s been learning about the rules and regulations and seeing how to run all the wiring to make sure it is safe, efficient and hidden from view!

We have also been spending some time on administrative tasks. Dave and I went to collect our residency cards before Brexit, which was a little spark of excitement amongst the bureaucratic drudgery.

The Family

Leona is 1 now and just keeps changing and growing up every day. We keep having to find new ways of allowing her to help out with everyday tasks as much as possible because it’s the only way to get anything done. She won’t let you dress her unless she is lifting up her feet to put them in the trousers, she won’t eat unless she is allowed to get stuff off our plates with our cutlery, she won’t go on the potty unless she sits down herself. I’m still figuring out how to get her nails cut since the old method starting failing me a week ago.

Some pictures from Leona’s birthday at our local viewpoint.

Learn & Grow

I watched a Netflix show called Call to Courage by Brené Brown, then read a friend’s copy of her book Daring Greatly. It is about having the courage to be vulnerable, and was a beautiful compliment to everything I have been learning about nonviolent communication, taking responsibility and listening with empathy.

A new realisation for me was realising the difference between guilt and shame. Feeling guilty allows you to take responsibility for what happened and change in the future. Shame wants you to crawl inside your shell, only emerging to lash out at others. I wouldn’t have said that I felt shame until I read the book – I guess I had shame and humiliation mixed up in my head. And feeling shame is shameful after all, and I wasn’t ready to admit that I could be so imperfect.

Now I can see that so much of my negative communication, particularly with Dave, comes from a place of shame. When I criticise his words or actions, it is almost always because I’m feeling ashamed about my own words or actions. When I defend my poor choices, it’s because I can’t bear to accept that I made a mistake. I’m always trying to worm my way out of being responsible for doing anything wrong. It’s the system that’s stupid, the tool that’s designed badly, the instruction manual that’s too complicated, it’s Dave’s unrelenting criticism that’s making me defensive. Why is it so hard for me to accept that there are things I’m not good at? I don’t expect perfection from anyone else, why expect it from myself?

Even right now I’m trying to figure out who or what did this to me so that I don’t have to take responsibility for being this way! It’s outrageous. And it’s so ingrained that it’s hard to even see it, let alone do anything to change it. If the stages I need to go through are Oblivious > I can see it happening > I can feel it about to happen > I can prevent it from happening, then I’m still spending most of my time Oblivious. Usually it’s only in the calm aftermath of an argument when I can see it all in retrospect.

Some of the traps I have noticed that I fall into include “I’m sorry but…”, which isn’t an apology at all. Another good one is coming up with lots of reasons why I did or didn’t do something, “It’s because I thought that…”, especially if those reasons are someone else’s fault, “I would never even have had to do that if you hadn’t…” Or just flat out attacking the other person in order to avoid confronting your own issues “Yeah well maybe I did that annoying thing, but you always do this annoying thing…”

So identifying that I have fallen into a trap is step 1. How do I move on from there? Well usually an apology and declaration of feelings is a good place to start. I have noticed that although I am sometimes capable of an apology, it is often swiftly followed by a criticism, because pointing out other people’s imperfections always makes us feel better. So I’m working on just stopping after the apology.

I want to be able to look at my mistakes from a place of curiosity and improvement. But you’ll have to watch this space to see how that goes, because I am so not there yet!