Category Archives: Experiences

Thoughts after my Permaculture Design Course

It’s interesting watching yourself have your own world view changed.

As I drove to Steve and Fiona Hansons “Permaculture Eden” for my two week design course, I was wondering if after two weeks I’d finally know what to plant with what. I guess I had permaculture fixated in my head as “hippy gardening”, and the only reason I was really going was because the Transition Handbook strongly suggested it was a good thing to do.

I’ve always liked nature – I enjoy hiking on mountains and in forests, but I guess I viewed it as a kind of nice to have thing. Great to get into, but nothing to do with the real world of people. Then came the two week immersion, with a fantastic group of intelligent people, coming at the whole topic from different angles. We had different cultures, ate different foods (I am not, and almost certainly never will be by choice, a Vegan), spoke different native tounges, and came from different backgrounds. A mix of practical and hopeless (I’m still working on my tree and herb identification), but all with a great desire to learn about the subject.

On day one, I was sceptical. All this talk about the people that started it. By the end of day two I was hooked. This wasn’t hippy, this was really design science! I was in my element. By the end of day seven, we were due a break. I needed it, pleading “my head’s full”. But we kept discussing, and kept learning. By the end of the course, we’d learned all sorts of things, some new, some not so, and could piece it all together. We were so pleased with our design, and all of us wanted to stay on and build it, and see if it could really be done. I’m sure we’ll all build part of it somewhere.

Before we all left, we held a party, and I drove to the supermarket for beer. It seemed so strange going into this enormous shop and buying things that we could just grow.

The following day, driving home, I realised that I would never see the world in the same way again. What had been nice pretty hedges on the way in, had become fabulous edges, full of interaction, co-operation and competition. What had been nice fields became lifeless deserts, with a monoculture crop standing in a lifeless dead ex-soil supported by pesticides and fertilisers. And the trees! Not just satisfying to look at but a source of so much, capable, if managed properly, of sustaining many of our needs.

When I got back to Ferney-Voltaire, my pensive mood continued. Who knew there was so much food lying around growing in the town already? I had thought growing food in town would be really difficult, but now I know that by working with nature, rather than against it, it’ll be much easier than we think.

Green Café Report: Waste

Another great Green Café.  With around 20 people, we almost didn’t hear from everyone!  With big thanks to Tina, who provided a touch of expertise, but also thanks to everyone who came along and shared what works for them.

It seems where waste is concerned there is no magic.  The usual three rules apply:

REDUCE the amount of waste you create as much as possible.  Composting seemed very popular and I’ll put a seperate set of hints and tips for that here on the site.  For now, take a look at this link in English.  For those of you in apartments, think about a communal composter.  They shouldn’t smell and really cut down on the waste you throw out.

Some suggested the use of those plastic balls that go in your washing machine instead of washing powder or liquid.  Of the few people that had tried these – it seemed about 50/50 whether these were good or not.  Everyone seemed to think they got clothes clean, with one saying it was damaging for fragile clothes, and another saying they needed to add perfume to the wash or clothes didn’t smell of anything and they didn’t like that.

Another great tip was to cut the end off of the toothpaste, hand or face cream tubes – you can usually get another week of use out of it, creating less waste and saving money!  It turned out everyone already does that 🙂

RE-USE things as much as possible.

Phillipe started a discussion about re-use.  Lots of dicussion about re-use, with direct re-use suggesting “Vide Greniers” as a great way to get rid of, or of course, find things, that can then be used by someone else.  Then came a whole host of web sites, from Freecycle, to ebay via craigslist, anibis, paru-vendu, zannonces and ricardo – not forgetting the free ads that can be placed in almost every local supermarket.

Agnès wanted to know if anyone knew where we could get ink cartridges refilled?  Anyone?

I checked with the guys at LJC Multimedia and they suggest using generic cartridges instead of refilling, as in their experience there is a good chance of destroying the printer – which doesn’t save money or the environment!


We had a lot of discussion about recyling, with everybody having different ways to collect the recycling before taking it to the recycle bins.  One lucky person had recycling bins next to her rubbish bin!

REPAIR – the 4th rule of 3

Philippe wanted us to remember that even today many things can be repaired, from your home appliances which can be fixed with spares from  a number of web sites – search for “pieces detachées” on google  (I’ve used 1001piles for portable devices needing new batteries) – right down to a dead iPod which can usually be fixed at the Podspital near Plainpalais in Geneva.  For computer repairs, try LJC Multimedia on the Grand Rue here in Ferney-Voltaire.