Eco Living

20 Mar

We have now been living at the Peace Factory in Montieu for just over two years where we are helping to set up an eco community. During the last two years we have achieved a lot but have a lot more to do. As well as organising to utilise the village council’s recycling service we have been producing our own compost with a large composter in the veg garden, which was made by two volunteers out of old pallets.

 I also use a Bokashi system in our kitchen which allows us to compost all food waste, including cooked food and bones. (what is Bokashi?) Also in the veg garden we use organic compost produced by the community tip which we buy by the trailer load. It cost just 10 Euros for 1.25 cubic metres. We also get organic manure for the same price from a farmer up the Black mountain who rears cows and sheep organically.  

Then to finish off the soil preparation in the winter we allow the chickens to roam all around the garden where they help to dig up the weeds, spread the compost and add to it with their own poo. 



Using a no-dig technique we are able to prepare the vegtable beds using a layer of cardboard covered by a few inches of manure or compost which is then taken down into the soil by worms and insects which helps to make the ground more usable for vegtables. 

We don’t do anything to the ground between the veg beds leaving it to grass, except cutting it. The ground is very uneven and slopes down from the house towards the other end. So to utilise the water more efficiently I prepare the beds across the garden so that the water flows through each bed instead of through the paths in between them. All the perennial vegetables are planted at the opposite end to the house as they require less attention and tend to grow taller and cause more shade. The veg which is used more frequently is planted nearest the house but not where the chickens can dig them up. We hope to become self-sufficient in veg but we are not there  yet. 

We use branches and sticks as well as bamboo (growing next to the river) for constructing wigwhams for growing peas etc. The chicken house is also positioned closer to the house as it needs to be visited  everyday to collect the eggs. (It is also produced from recycled wood on site and made by volunteers, together with a garden seat made out of pallets and logs.) Then we use a rotation system for the veg beds each year to ensure the correct nurtients are maintained in the soil. Some veg utilise more nitrogen whereas others replenish the nitrogen in the soil. We do not use any sprays or chemicals in the veg garden. Even the chickens are fed on organic food. However we do use wood shavings from the local carpenter for bedding for the chickens and for use in our three composting toilets. We have constructed these toilets to help to reduce water use and produce compost at the same time. 

There is one in the main veg garden, one outside the little house and one inside the ground floor of the factory. When used correctly they do not smell or attract flies. They are clean and will produce usable compost after it is left in a sealed container for six months to a year. I will not use the compost from these on the veg garden but will use it on the flower gardens. The difficulty is getting it from one end of the site to the other. At the moment there is a large container full in the woods behind the little house and I will want to use it one the terraces at the other end of the factory on three different levels. No I cannot use a wheelbarrow even to collect it from the current position! We will find an efficient way of doing this. 

Any other unwanted products like clothes and electrical goods are taken to Emhaus for recycling and all wood is stored for future use, whether for making things or for burning. Leaves will be collected in black sacks, holes put in them and left for six months to be used as leaf moud as a dressing on certain plants which like to grow in an ericaceous compost. We leave a small section of garden each year to nettles (not our dog) so that we can collect the leaves and produce our own fertiliser for growing some veg such as tomotoes. We also like to grow some comfrey for the same purpose or for medicinal use (it is good for sprains). Some of our volunteers have also produced nettle soup (which tastes very nice and is nutritious) but no one has demonstrated nettle tea to me yet. 

For cleaning we try to use eco friendly products like vinegar and bicarb of soda which are sold in many shops near us, as well as eco friendly washing powder and dishwasher powder. We do not use these machines until we have a full load reducing the use of both water and power. We do not have a tumble dryer as this is not eco friendly and during the summer it only takes a couple of hours to dry our washing in the sunshine. 

We are still working on generating our own electricity using the water turbine  but this requires finance which we do not yet have available. 

We are able to get the water from the river to the turbine but we need to purchase and fit an alternator before connecting to the factory. Naturally we turn off the radiators and lights in the rooms we are not using to reduce the amount of energy used. We also need to be able to collect rainwater with guttering and closed water butts for use on the terraces. 

The next stage for the gardens is planting all the veg I have seeded in the greenhouse and sowing some direct in April and clearing some of the terraces for seating areas with flowers and herbs. Volunteers will also be needed to help clear the next floor of the factory in preparation for building a new training room and finishing off the second floor communal areas. 

One Response to “Eco Living”

  1. navasolanature 24 March 2015 at 02:49 #

    Lots of interesting detail. Thanks!

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