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I got an email from a friend this Monday saying they knew of a ‘very overgrown’ piece of land whose owner was desperate for someone to look after it; by Tuesday I had an appointment to go and look at the land, and by Thursday evening I was in. Considering you usually don’t get any information about land unless your great grandfather lived in the village, this is quite a shock.
The land is 13 Are, about 1300 square metres, which isn’t quite as massive as it sounds, but it’s still pretty big compared to a balcony.
It’s about 50% brambles and 100% south-west facing hill. The brambles are so rampant that I can’t get within about ten metres of the bottom edge of the property. But it isn’t overlooked by too many houses so I shouldn’t get into too much trouble with nosy neighbours with my strange permacultural ways.
Pictured is the all important privvy/outhouse. At least I think that’s what it was: at the moment it’s full of windows and shutters from some long-forgotten building project.
So this is where all my fancy talk about ecology and self sufficiency will hopefully become reality, and blog material.
I’m currently away in Freiburg again on weekend two of the permaculture course, and hopefully taking pictures of real bicycle infrastructure. So here’s a random thought for this week.
Whenever I’m inside, I prefer to be barefoot, unless it is really freaking cold. Sounds weird, I know, but there you are.
People who are familiar with our tree hugging, car free lifestyle probably think that I’m being ‘in touch with the earth’ or something, but it’s simply that for some odd reason, I find wearing socks or shoes indoors leads to all kinds of moisture-related discomfort. When I’m barefoot, my feet stay dry and gradually warm up of their own accord, so I have toasty feet all day.
It’s probably just me that finds this.
People react in different ways, but the most common is “You’ll catch a cold”. I very, very rarely catch a cold. I used to spend the entire winter sniffing and coughing, and inhaling over hot salty water, but since I started cycling daily I find that I can be surrounded by sneezing people with not a snuffle.
So there. Another advantage to a car -free lifestyle. Of course it’s debatable if this is because the exercise helps my immune system or if I just freeze the germs to death every winter morning.
I’ve learned sufficient ‘civilisation survival skills’ that I no longer get annoyed that it’s socially acceptable to tell people off for being barefoot but not for driving, so I don’t go up to people and say things like “Driving again? You’ll get a cold if you keep doing that” but it’s sometimes tempting.
Of course, now I’ve said all that I’ll catch a cold tomorrow, you watch.
Travelling from Stuttgart to Freiburg is a bit like going on a bear hunt: The Black Forest is in the way, and we can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, and if we go through it, it’ll take half a day because the railways all go north to south, so we have to go around it and down the Rhine valley, which takes almost as long. So when I found myself with the Xtracycle in the outer suburbs of Freiburg and utterly unable to find the venue for the Permaculture course I was attending, I’d already been sitting on various trains since the small hours.
I asked for directions from a local* and they pointed beyond the town where a pine forest rose into the clouds like the gates of Mordor. “You see that hotel up there?” They asked as said clouds parted to show a building perched high up on the hillside. “Well, the road you want starts there.”
One long, winding climb later I was up in the clouds and surprised to note that my legs hadn’t fallen off, so all those hills around Stuttgart have obviously done me some good. I could still have done with some sleep before starting the course, but we had eighteen hours of lectures to get through before Sunday afternoon so what I got was shovel-loads of information about how we’re living like someone paying off debts with credit cards, and in urgent need of a reset of priorities, along with a drastic reduction in energy consumption. As agriculture uses more energy (often supplied by oil) to grow food than we get from eating it, this is a problem even for weirdo car-free types like us.
Permaculture is a sort of toolbox for a more sustainable lifestyle, which plugs into natural cycles that are already there instead of relying on oil. By the end of the four weekends we’ll have had 72 hours of this and we’ll be all set to design our own permaculture farms, gardens, or in my case balcony. I can also try and carve a niche out as a permaculture designer which is arguably a bit academic in the absence of clients or land, but all my rambling here about bicycles and simple living is a part of a bigger goal for our family to live more sustainably and start a small scale arts centre. The Permaculture training means that when we do manage to get (access to) some land, we’ll be a tiny bit more ready.
Hopefully; in theory.
*I know blokes should never do this, but it was that or ride around Freiburg for a week.