Permaculture experience: always finish the process you started!

DSC04231Permaculture is about natural cycles of life – a continuous process of beginnings and endings, of sowing and harvesting, of living and dying, of combining the best, and of ….. Taking Care. It also means closing the cycles – end what you have started! I like that concept, as it refers both to natural cycles and to our own human actions. We have almost forgotten in this world where short, fast and constantly changing prevails. Permaculture teaches us to dedicate ourselves to a full cyclical process and taking on responsibility until the end, until a new beginning.That made this permaculture experience at Quinta do Luzio in Portugal so enriching in a true ecological sense. Continue reading

Head, Heart and Hands – putting community-based economy into practice at Ajudada!

Everything has a price it seems, but do we know the true price of things

It’s time to rethink the value of things!

Ajudada

Ajudada programme and cork badge

The core of Ajudada, a 3-day international transition gathering in Portalegre, Portugal (not Porto Alegre in Brazil), was to imagine a new economic model based on the core values of community-based life, namely giving and sharing – the key ingredients of a prosperous society. Bringing economy back to its origin, as in the Greek word Eikos for house, economy thus meaning: managing our common home. Continue reading

From unemployment to the most splendid permaculture garden

It was actually during my Cycloasis tour that several French pointed out this amazing project in Belgium, Mouscron. A former industrial town near the French border not far away from Roubaix.

Back in Belgium I got curious and so I visited this extraordinary example of how a simple garden can become so productive and yet with so little interference! Gilbert and Josine, a retired couple by now, managed to do this for over more than 35 years. It was actually unemployment that changed it all.

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The circle is round with ‘Oasis des 7 Cercles’

This is a kind of ‘déjà vu’. It is exactly a year ago that I visited this project ‘Oasis des 7 Cercles’ of Catherine and Laurent for the first time.

Farm house Oasis de 7 Cercles

It was also thanks to that encounter with them, then still in the build-up stage of their eco-project, which made me decide to undertake this journey Cycloasis. It was very heart-warming to be with them again and witness the changes and progress that has taken place in their project since. Continue reading

Autonomy means choosing your dependencies!

This is one of the foundations of the life that Brigitte and Patrick Baronnet have created over the past 36 years with their project ‘La Maison Autonome’, the autonomous house. They explain that autonomy and spirituality are two very important pillars of ecology and these are inextricably linked to personal development. The word eco in ecology, economy, etc. comes from the Greek ‘eikos’ and means house, tells Patrick. Economy thus means: the management of the house. And a house reflects our interior. Unfortunately, the current economy is not taking care of this house (in the larger sense) at all, he adds. Patrick is not very fond of words such as sustainable development, which is by the way wrongly translated in French as ‘développement durable’. ‘Durable’ means something that lasts long, but is not necessarily sustainable. It should therefore say ‘soutenable’ in French. But apart from that, Patrick argues that the concept of sustainable development is too often used in a limited sense, not encompassing its depth, complexity, interdependency and wealth, including a spiritual level. Continue reading

Eco-projects need DIVERSITY in every sense!

Alain Dorange, pensioner and one of the cofounders of the eco-project ‘Le Moulin de Busseix’, explains how important it is for these shared-living-projects to have a variety of skills and knowledge available among its members. Your project is at risk, he says if you depend too much on one person for certain necessary skills, particularly concerning gardening, agriculture, construction, and diverse engineering-technical skills. “Besides it is important to have a good mixture of age, but this is not always easy”.

Alain describes an interesting phenomenon, which I have also noticed in other projects. Continue reading

Dynamic young farmers construct an open and shared eco-project

The project Vispens started in 2010 with new young farmers, so called ‘neo-ruraux’, or ‘new rurals’ as they do not have a farmer background, although they have done additional courses. They  took the initiative, on land purchased by Terre de Liens, to set up a project with several other people, also non-farmers, combining respectful agriculture with shared living and a variety of economic and social activities on this 140 hectares site, of which 80 hectares is arable.

Vispens farm

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Artistic ways to search for autonomy and ecology

Oasis de Lentiourel describes itself as a place of peace (‘un lieu de paix’) that takes care of the earth (‘la terre’), the world and itself. This eco-project, set up by mainly artists, wishes to be a place where people can explore innovative ways of autonomy, exchange, helping each other (‘entraide’), and be in harmony with its surroundings.

Thanks to different contacts with other Oasis’, a course that two of the current residents took, on ‘How to create an ecoproject?’ (Given by the founders of Hameau de Buis, Sophie and Laurent), and looking into funding, resulted in 2010 in the purchase of the farm Lentiourel. Continue reading

A human adventure of solidarity, alternative education and eco-housing

In the South of the Ardèche two projects, ‘La Ferme des enfants’ and ‘le Hameau de Buis’ were brought together to construct a future in respect of life. Le Hameau de Buis, founded in 2004, comprises of a primary and middle school (until the age of 16) with a total of 65 children and 20 houses with 43 inhabitants on 7 hectares of farm land. Unique in this human adventure is the mixture of its population: men and women between 2 and 80 years of age, with two-third of pensioners, as well as different nationalities. As several of the inhabitants are also involved in the education at the school La Ferme des enfants, the children learn English, German, and Spanish and are in their daily lives in close contact with other languages and cultures – an enriching experience which is not very common in most French contexts. The school has children from both families that live next door at the Hameau de Buis and that live outside in the surrounding villages.

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