To build a community is knowingly a great challenge. To build a culture is however a bigger claim. Yet, once emerged, a common culture nourishes the common ground for a community to grow.
As a place of transitions and diversity, Suderbyn has been changing and transforming its culture over years, a lot. Yet, one common dimension, dear to most of the hearts here, is nature, and living with her gifts and cycles. In the last years we in Suderbyn learnt to appreciate and integrate the nature cycle more consciously in our life, celebrating its events, looking into the old ways and inventing our own rituals fitting our community, who we are. Being a secular ecovillage Suderbyn learns to appreciate these moments of rituals and ceremonies – old or self-invented, adopted and transformed – as they are a rare treat in our days and bring strong imprints onto the communal memory.
Coming together for the First Greens Celebration in an early spring, soon after celtic Beltane, is one of the simple ceremonies when we create a moment to appreciate whatever is given – the subtle richness of the Nordic land, with its first tiny flowers and first nourishing greens – nettles, ground elder, dandelions and many others to bring joy to our table and eyes. For many here this becomes the first time in life to sit together around the fire to celebrate the First Greens, burning dried leaves of the past season symbolically representing personal stories that are to be let off.
Then, in summer days the traditional Scandinavian and Slavic Midsommar (Summer Solstice) is the celebration special for Suderbyn in many ways. That is a day for which we spare white clothes and magically transform into the high beauty, shading the outfit of pajamas and garden working clothes more natural for Suderbeings. This is the day we surrender to jumping around the pole with Swedish childhood songs about small pigs traditionally sang at Midsommar and run after each other in a theatrical way acting as hunting bears. This is the day we cook a table of delicacies, taking is as an excuse to buy some luxirious treats with the Cooperative funds – while in all other days of the year we strictly follow the Food Policy restricting far-away and rich in eclogical footprint products. But first and foremost, this is the day we invite friends to join us, and the ecovillage gets filled with more people,their laughter, dance and games.
And what is that giant sculpture in the middle of the ecovillage? Midsommar pole in Sweden is a cultural attribute erected for the summer solstice and representing fertility. Traditionally it clearly resembles the male physicality, but here in Suderbyn we adopted a habit to weave the Midsommar pole from branches in a shape of the female symbol, as a gratitude and acknowledgement of the feminine richness of fertility
The summer and its heat pass, and soon we celebrate the Autumn Equinox, in a candlelit room. We gather for a potluck-style dinner with a wide variety of dishes made with vegetables and fruits harvestedfrom our garden: pumpkin pie, stuffed marrow with chestnuts, elderberry juice, apple pie, roasted garlic, salad and much more. Such abundance!
In the meantime, the bonfire is lit. We gathered around the fire to share a moment of reflection and gratefulness; to make space for the transition that is happening in nature, to also happen inside ourselves. To shift from blossoming, ripening and being directed outwards, to allowing parts of ourselves to die and turn inwards.
What arises in that moment is a co-creation of singing songs, sharing poems, staring into the fire, writing down on small papers what we want to let go of, burning these papers with intention, and sharing these intentions with one another.
“I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, 'No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive, I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, 'I will see you again very soon.''"
Celebration of Autumn Equinox in Suderbyn – memorised with food treaures from our garden – is very much the celebration of the harvest and abundance of nature in this period, its fruits and colours, its warm light and calm days. With the first sacrifice of pumpkins, with bounty of local apples – even small and sweet-sour they are a big gift to our northern land – we honour this short momentum of the equilibrium in nature. From now on, the daylight will get slowly submersed into the darkness of the winter... with shorter days and longer cozy nights, candles and hugs, talks and games, when we, as every element of nature, get a chance to recuperate after long summer.
Honouring the seasons, embodied in nature and resonating within our own organisms, is probably one of the most regenerative things you can learn in an ecovillage. Intensity of the summer, followed by harvest and abundance of the autumn with its chill vibe, replaced by the winter hybernation to restore and reset... Living in cities we lose the sense of this simple cycle, functioning over millennia for everything in nature with no exception for humans. We are artificially stimulated when it is time to rest, getting exhausted when it is time to restore. Here in the countryside, in a small yet intense community, you feel into the seasons – both in weather and in your inner feelings – and, overtime, you learn to respect its wisdom. What at first might seem as inconvenient disruptions due to the weather, soon becomes a clear reflection of your own needs. Be it to work when the land is awaking, or to rest when the work is over, to open up in the spring and turn inward in the autumn.
We live together with people from very different cultures and backgrounds and don’t have a fixed shared culture or spiritual belief system. What we celebrate and in what way, is completely up to the people that currently live here. Despite our differences, the cycles of nature is something we all seem to feel very connected to. In this, it is easy for us to find common ground for celebration and reflection. And the cycle of seasons guides us through different aspects of the community – with more calm and cozy introverted time following the arrival of the cold and winter winds, and with more open, outdoor and high vibes celebrations of life when the first sprouts and buds come again.
These fundamental and simple tools provide not only the conditions for physical needs, but can be even a deeply valuable source of mental and spiritual peace, reminding that everything gets born and dies at its time, with its pace, in a cycle.
GARDEN AND FOOD
This year is a special garden season in Suderbyn: we are doing a long term investment for the land by sowing and planting many many perennial vegetables! Perennial vegetables are edible cultivable plants that grow for more than 3 years, and potentially up to 100 years depending on the plant. Exciting right?
Obviously, we have been working with perennials such as trees and bushes for some time now, but the potential of permanent agriculture doesn't stop there.
Imagine ''substitutes'' to onions, broccoli, kale, spinach, lettuce and many others that you don't need to regrow every year (Note that the term ''substitute'' is misleading: many perennial alternatives are as productive and tasty as their annual and biannual counterparts and often invite unusual tastes to the table). We are currently working with recently sown and 1+2 years old seakales, good king henry, 9 star perennial broccoli, pea vetch, three different sorrels, and many more to come!
More than a ''cool garden thingy'', perennial vegetables are a great opportunity for our confused and crazy times. First, as they don't need to be sown/planted every year, they considerably reduce soil disturbance and tillage, and increase the soil carbon sequestration potential of farming. This also implies more lively and resilient soils as the animals and microorganisms in them are not being disturbed by repetitive tillage. And while we talk about life, many of these perennial veggies are not only food for us but also provides a stable and reliable source of nourishment for pollinators.
Because they come back year after year and are often more robust than our usual annual veggies, perennial veggies are a great asset for food security and community resilience. Being more ''wild-ish'', they are often more nutritive than domesticated veggies. Their perennial nature makes them more resource effective, both in terms of labor, fertilizing and water.
Perennial vegetables are an entry door to more permanent, robust and diverse agricultural systems that moves our food system away from the tractor-field-monoculture paradigm. Yet, since diversity is central to resilience and that many of our annual veggies have their own intrinsic advantages, the point is not to try to totally replace annuals with perennials.
Feeding ourselves from annual, perennials and wild sources can bring a very welcomed balance in our landscapes, guts and in our relationships with Nature.
By the way, as many solutions to our current problems, perennial veggies are nothing brand new: asparagus and rhubarb are common in our supermarkets and in Japan and Korea, the hosta genus has been picked and cultivated for many years as a spring delicacy while it is mostly regarded as a pretty flower in Europe!
Do you want to learn more about the potential of perennial vegetables and support the amazing movement that strives to bring them to the mainstream? Check out this crowdfunding campaign for a research project on the nutritive value of certain perennial veggies! More knowledge and scientific evidence means more interest for this beautiful resilient world we want to create!
Long sizzling summer days and an occasional July storm are blessing our garden. The time of the first greens and new born shoots is definitely over now, and has made way for the time of bearing fruit. Harvest season has abundantly started! Walking around the property is so wonderful right now, with flowers everywhere; berry bushes full of red currents, black currents, June berries, raspberries and goose berries; trees full of cherries, fresh herbs for cooking, tea and medicinal purposes growing all around us.
The abundance is so huge and omnipresent that we hardly know where to start with sharing it with you! But we’ll do our best to give you a glimpse
For quite some weeks already, we have been enjoying a variety of leafy greens such as chard, kale, orach and New Zealand spinach, which are now accompanied by sorrel (a nice sour leaf we use for salads), good king Henry and sea beet.
Last week, we harvested our first cabbages! Since we had quite some problems with cabbage butterflies last year, we took extra care measures this year. It paid off: the cabbages grew really well and look and taste delicious! With them also came the first turnips and various amazing types of peas, pea shoots and beans (some of which are actually over already). Also the beetroots, carrots and zucchini are starting to get ready!
A week ago we did our big garlic harvest. It was so epic to empty almost the whole field at once; to pull them out of the soil, sort them on size, clean them and hang them to dry in our dome.
The field with pumpkin, melons, corn and sunflowers is looking beautiful and lush. The leaves of the pumpkin plants cover nearly all of the soil, so when we peeked underneath them we were very happy to discover the first pumpkins and melons growing!
Even though it is a hot summer, the soil feels still very moist when we put our hands into it. The mulching we are doing is keeping the water from the occasional rain or watering cans very well and keeping the plants nicely hydrated.
With love from our soily hands to yours!
The summer is passing like a flash, and we have not even told you about the abundance of the food in #SuderbynEcovillage!
What a bounty it is to collect fruits of earth in our garden and turn them into a large, diverse and nutritious meal for the community. These days we are bathing in our rich harvest of zucchinis, cabbages, french beans, tomatoes, carrots, chards, beetroots, new zealand spinach, garlic, diversity of herbs, cherries – what not!
There are a lot of things we have not mastered well in our ecovillage yet, but luscious well-flavored #organic #vegan food is not only the passion but a proper skill of us as the collective.
With these juicy images we want to remind you that what ends up at your plate – in fact causes the main impact both onto your own body and health, and onto the health of the soil, water, air and therefore the body of our planet Earth and its society. How food is grown, how far it is transported, what substances are used as fertilisers, is it gown in industrial monoculture way or in ways restorative for exhausted soil, how much suffering is caused for other species, how the growers are treated – these are the factors that we dream people to be aware of at every meal taken, if you belong to he part of the society privileged to choose what to consume.
Here in Suderbyn we have a strict policy for the collective food: it is 100% organic, vegan, fair-trade and when possible local goods bought in bulks to reduce packaging and transportation. Vegetables that we do not grow ourselves, we source from our friend farmer Gunnar Bolin – who dared to transform an old dairy farm into big vegetables production. Many of staples, including varieties of wheat and lentils as well as raps oil come from our island of Gotland, or from neighbouring regions in Sweden – like oats and buckwheat. We mill flour ourselves, as well as we make our oatmilk, bake bread, prepare sauces and dressings and therefore use no processed food for communal meals. You would be surprised but you can prepare a luxurious vegan meal from ingredients fully grown on this very island, in the north of Europe (besides salt and some spices that we use). We do, however, import seeds and nuts from organic sources in the south of Europe, and so we do buy a few deluxe products from overseas –spices, cacao and coffee, learning to treat them as luxury.
Good news is what is good for earth is usually good for you –not only on a metaphysical long-term level (because you would benefit from a healthy planet), but also in a very practical sense of nutrients and health. Brining attention to your plate – eating organic, more local, cruelty-free food is the greatest way to contribute to a more healthy environment and more resilient socio-economic connections
Our dear Lukasz Wozniak, a Regreen Short Term ESC participant, shared his feelings and thoughts about what these 3 weeks in Suderbyn unleashed in him:
"So few days ago I came back from Suderbyn Ecovillage.
What comes first to me when I write about it here is the possibility and the invitation.
The possibility of creating the next culture.
A world where emotions, body and spirituality go hand in hand with intellect and support each other.
In which emotions other than "good" are accepted and desired.
Where taking responsibility is a form of joy and fun.
Where going beyond your comfort zone is okay because there are others around to support you.
In which you can work with your traumas, demons and you don't have to hide them.
Where there is room for pain and despair.
Where following the impulse doesn't end with guilt.
In which there is no blame and no guilt.
Where the body is a miracle, not a curse.
Where people touch each other.
In which a man can hold another man's hand and it doesn't make him feel bad.
In which a woman kissing another woman is not treated as a sexual object.
In which we heal from years of individualism and the cult of being "everything".
In which diversity is appreciated and not taken through the prism of "I'm missing something".
In which it is okay to ask for help.
In which you scream, cry, growl, bite.
In which there is no "abnormality".
Where you can talk to the rock like a very old friend who has a lot to say.
In which humans are supporting nature, not destroy it or leave it alone.
In which the humans are observing.
In which the "human is a virus" paradigm is abolished.
Because we have a hell of a lot of things to do and I don't want to be alone in it.
Because we are beautiful and our beauty and love cannot stand being in a cage anymore.
And creating safe spaces for opening the cages is my invitation.
I need you because you have things that I don't have.
I need you because when I see you I see me.
I need you to create something where the beings will want to live after me.
And I take from my trip that it is possible.
And it doesn't have to be an ecovillage.
Let's just do the opposite of what we are doing now.
Let us create deep communities, let us plant gardens, trees, forests, let us become self-sufficient, let us heal ourselves from traumas, let us touch each other, let us sing songs, let us scream when something angers us, let us cry when we feel sad, let us tremble when we are afraid, let us laugh when we are happy.
I wish you a lot of warmth! When I integrate myself a little bit more, I will enter my fear and I will start planning."
Moving out from the city, similar middle aged people create an Eco Village place in a new place, men discussing energy and waste water system solutions!
Well, maybe this is how it was at the time of Njord, the oldest EcoVillage network in the world, in the 1960- 70th, now renamed to ERO, the Swedish GEN network
Now, however, we see an exciting development in Sweden where people move out to existing villages and integrate the new and old.
This coincides with a movement where often young people decided to leave the cities for a less hectic life more intune with their inner core values.
For a long time it has been true for the area around Järna, south of Stockholm, where the antroposofica movement established already in the 1930th, creating a cultural center that later has attracted people of different backgrounds.
Around the center new places have been established like the CSA Under Tallarna, Charlottendal Village and Nackunga community.
Inspired by Findhorn, a small center was founded in 1984 in the old village Stjärnsund. Later the University course, Sustainable building attracted new people leading to the start of the Permaculture Stjärnsund, NGO. Like in Järna the area around southern Dalarna has become a sort of “Bioregion”.
Lately in the 1900, textile industry, village Uddebo has become another sprawling alternative center. At the turn of 1900 people established a big textile factory on this rich farmland area. When the industry died around the millennium, Uddebo was partly deserted with many houses left empty. Some MC gangs moved in, giving Uddebo a bad reputation at the same time as the cheap houses attracted some artists, anarchist and transition people from the city.
Now Uddebo is now a sprawling center with a population of 400 and many wanting to move in, in search of a less stressful life on the countryside.
The (new) story of Uddebo, started some 15 years ago when the owner decided to tear down the old factory in the village.
A group of five people of different backgrounds, including Caroline Bergman, with a long family background in the village, decided to act and buy the house. The yellow house then became a village meeting and cultural house.
This laid the background for a unique development with Uddebo becoming a driving force for de urbanization and the search for a new way to live.
Caroline moved back to Uddebo 2005, renovating a farm and also starting several different projects,
-2008 we invited some 60 people, asking how we could beautify Uddebo?
A NGO was established making plans for the future but also leading to activities like,courses, dance parties, a common sauna and food and building projects.
Caroline also became local politician, started other NGO organizations and helped apply for EU and other founding possibilities.
The latest project she is involved in is the development of a small house settlement with 8 new self-made houses.
The new housing project is also developed on land connected to Väveriet.
-The last fifteen years I been working to establish the possibility to turn Uddebo into a living center. Now the village have all kinds of, sometimes diverting activities
which I find fantastic. Some five years ago my friends encouraged me to do less projects letting other people take more responsibility for what is to come. But a project like this does depend on some driving forces.
- For me it’s important that we don’t share an ideology, one direction, instead we embrace diversity and the relations between people, the new and old and all that is Uddebo. I´m also part of the Burner community, which is more focused on creativity than ideology.
Some people want to preserve the old Uddebo spirit, others have moved in here f. i. from Järna, with its anthroposophy background, as they don’t want to be defined into one belief system.
Another things Caroline points out is the question of scale. A place of 3-500 people is ideal to allow people to be seen and to be able to share culture and create an organizational structure. If its larger than this people tend to lose their identity.
In Uddebo people know each other and have learn to make comprises to live together.
-Most important is to have a good time. I often say that I cannot get a burn out because I have decided to work less hours and less cost of living and allow myself
a more relaxed life. Having said this Caroline is now involved in new projects both in the Stockholm region and helping other village projects to develop in tSweden. The Reco-EcoVillage, in Röstånga, Skåne being another place where new and old converse in an existing village.
At the start I mentioned Uddebo as a ”Bioregion” an area where different new initiatives develop in an organic decentralize way.
One step in that direction is the nearby Strömsund village where transition leader Elinor Askmar, normally working at Studie främjandet
adult education center in Gothenburg, and three other friends created the “Byar och Kvarter” Village and blocks company,
buying an old big wood house renovation, it and making it to a rental house.
- It turned out that the house was a former swingers center! Now we have made new apartments but people in Uddebo jokingly have asked us to keep at least the attic for its old purpose.
Life in the Uddebo region gets exported and already now more people from Gothenburg area, some 1, 5 hours driving distance, wants to join the Uddebo vibe!
Byar och kvarter
What's a “Burner”? It's the common term people use to identify their kinship with Burning Man culture and/or community. Being a Burner is more than attending an event, it's a way of being in the world.
As an old newcomer in Suderbyn my re-experience with the food made me think about how the food system here is the very example of innovation in adversity. Not that there is adversity in terms of what we eat at all. The adversity I am talking about is something I see, coming back from being able to pick anything up at the store, to living in a place that focuses on local, organic food. In Suderbyn we grow as much as we can with permaculture gardening methods and the rest we buy seasonally from as local and as sustainable providers as possible. The adversity that I am talking about comes when you let your geographic location and the seasons determine what you eat; options are limited. And not only that, but sometimes, food finishes.
But magic happens when you bring together +20 people from all over the world with different food cultures in the luggage. And wauw, there are no limits to what you can create with the same vegetables if you just let your different community members go wild in the kitchen.The same ingredients can turn out in so many unexpected ways, and it tastes too-good-to-be true.
And what more can you dream of than organic food, full of goodness and nutrition, as local as possible. Hmmm, and Vegan too. It defines the authentic, the quality and the ideals of the community in its truest form, and if the taste wasn’t something to talk about, I wouldn’t, but it is. Just the other day I had the most fantastic pesto made from carrot tops. SO good!
I think it has something to do with the fact that everyone gets a turn to cook not so often, and when they do, a lot of effort and love goes into the cooking process. I mean we are up to 20 people in the community right now, sometimes more! So about a 3 week rotation period. Not only that but a magical “kitchen angel” comes to clean your mess after you are done cooking. Its fantastic!
So to summarise, no guilt, no fuss, authentic, quality food, that is made with local goods and by people who are really into creating something great for the community.
We work hard and play hard here in Suderbyn, and part of the playing is enjoying a good meal with one another. The innovation in food is shown by the silly beautiful things that happen here, just the other day, the coffee press lost its head, that you use to press down, and only a metal stick protruding out is now there, everybody uses different things but Robert used a zucchini end. What a moment!
Heddas and Annas baking is legendary in Suderbyn, fantastic pancakes every Sunday, Fika cakes, and fresh bread! Pesto, nettle soup, bean burgers, Indian food, tofu rolls, Indian food, fresh home made oat milk, kombucha, and the list goes on.
I guess you will have to come and visit to find out!
- Menakshi Malik
There’s a lot to be sceptical of when it comes to awards. It almost always feels nice to be recognised for something, but it’s important to remember what being recognised, or getting an award can really mean.
Some people win awards that, looking back, perhaps shouldn’t have. Did you know Hitler won TIME’s person of the year in 1938? His economic policies were benefitting the German economy, and his populism was bringing (particular) demographics together. The anti-Jewish rhetoric? Oh, everyone’s a little bit racist and no one’s perfect!
Milton Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his advocacy and government consultation of free market economics. Our globalised, privatised economic system with its unfathomable wealth disparity and ecological-limit breaking ruthless focus on growth (neo-liberalism) can be argued to have stemmed directly from Friedman and the influence of his Chicago School. We may have given our civilisation’s most prized awards to one of it’s forerunning horsemen.
Hell, there might come a point when we look at Obama’s Nobel Peace prize and go, “wait, didn’t that guy deport more immigrants than all previous presidents, as well as Trump, AND intensify drone warfare in the Middle East which killed, like, a heck-ton of civillians, destroyed families and further increased resentment, hatred and distrust towards Western hegemony rather than doing anything to actually end the conflict and restabilise the region?” …
I mean… That point might come. Just sayin’.
There are fantastic projects and people who will never be recognised by an official body because they’re unlucky, or because their work isn’t economically viable, or is ahead of the zeitgeist. It’s just like in life: we don’t always get what we want. We’re not always seen or understood. Housework can go unnoticed, emotional labour unappreciated, the cleaners, care givers, bin collectors and farmers of our societies will not be recognised for their essential contributions to our lives, health and functioning of our societies.
No, we’re not always seen or understood, but should we even aim to be?
Some forms of recognition can be entirely disingenuous and self serving. Get your recognition, now you’re done, you’ve made it! You can stop now! This is often seen in corporate or governmental awards where recognition of meagre “green” activities are a way to maintain public image for the next quarter. On an individual level, I think of the winners of TV talent shows. They get recognised for their tear-jerking story and people pleasing performance, release an album that gets the Christmas no. 1 before being quickly and quietly sacrificed to the fickle elder Gods of rapidly shifting public opinion.
Even deserved and seemingly well intentioned awards can often be a way to defuse the radical nature of the work. For this one I think about Gretha Tunberg’s attitude towards awards. It’s either, “Alright, give me the money, this is going to people who need it”, or an outright rejection, “I need a future, not an award. Ecological collapse hasn’t gone away just because of this feelgood cabal of self-congratulation.”
Perhaps an award should never be seen as an expression of finality but rather exactly what it is: A subjective recognition that might provide social/economic benefit, bestowed by a small group of people whose authority on any particular subject might be less authoritative, or less genuine, than we might initially think. So what is this award to Suderbyn?
A hollow gesture made by green growthers?
A cynical attempt by an organisation to promote their agenda?
A psy-op campaign designed to incorporate Suderbyn into the “institution” in order to disarm any of its radical change making potential!?
I don’t really believe in any of them in this case. What I am certain of however is that whilst it’s nice to be recognised for our work it is far more important to recognise how much work there still is to do.
- Evelyn Carr
We even made a video to commemorate the occasion. It doesn't necessarily connect with why we won the award but hey. Check it out!
This one was actually sown as a green manure that we were planning to turn in to improve the soil... And well, when you forget to turn in a green manure, it just continues its life and grows to its full potential and eventually gives seeds! (This is probably the only existing case of productive procrastination.)
Food wise, rye is often ignored or limited to crackers and dark bread, which is a shame since it is a very nutritious cereal and healthier than wheat in many regards.
Actually, the grain is not the only yield here. The straw - the dried stem of the plant - is also an excellent source of food...for the soil! Straw contains proportionally more carbon than hay, which is dried grass or legumes. Straw is therefore a perfect ingredient for soil building as a mulch or in compost, especially when combined with more nitrogen rich elements such as urine, grass clippings, certain manures, food waste etc.
Returning homegrown straw to the soil is an essential part of the the simple and balanced cycle created by the farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. He understood more than everyone that growing food implies giving back to the Earth after taking from her. Indeed, even though the grain took some nutrients from the soil, most of its food came from the sun and the air, unlimited and renewable sources. At the end, it's a net gain for the soil, especially when all the nutrients are kept in the loop, with compost toilets and straw back to the land.
Recent cultivars of grain are very often shorter which results in faster harvests and easier processing, but also less straw, which is not regarded as an essential biproduct anymore. (Our rye on this picture reaches up to 175 cm!).
This perspective illustrates the contemporary misunderstanding of the needs of our soils. Synthetic fertilizers, mineral powders, diluted juices and far-imported fertility, intended to feed the plants directly, cannot replace local whole foods such as straw, hay, compost or manure when it comes to feeding the soil on the long term. The narrowly scientific, productivity oriented approach cannot match the holistic perspective that encourages a constant flow of nutrients and energy from soil to plants, from plants to humans and animals, and back to the soil.
After threshing the grain out of the huls and off the straw, we will take back this small sheaf to our soil, and "the cycle won't be broken!"
These are the stories which change the world and show us what is possible...
We have a magician in our ecovilage. His name is Théo. With his long tale of dreadlocks, humble and kind heart, and magic hands Théo is a unique producer of chocolate of a special kind. Shipped by friends on an original sailing boat "Tres Hombres" from across the ocean, the cacao beans come straight from a small farm of a local ecosystem restoration project in Dominican Republic. They come with the wind of salty sea, without fossil fuels and international cargo companies. Théo picks the beans in Amsterdam and brings them home – to our ecovillage Suderbyn on the island of Gotland. Here Théo recently moved his little chocolate factory, where he makes the chocolate by hand from bean to bar without any preservatives, all vegan and organic as it only can be. He wraps the precious bars in paper made of cacao-shells. The chocolate is then sent to small organic shops and personally to people who subscribe online (the link below). Every time we look at a bar of Théo's chocolate, be it one with cacao nibs or hazelnut, or raw dark chocolate, I think of the wind in Tres Hombres sales, of a long way which a real fair chocolate needs to make, and all the goodness this small bar contains.
Chocolate is not only a delicious treat, oh no. Cacao beans are medicinal in its nature. Commercial companies which turned chocolate into a sugar-rich candy based on child slavery and oil industry, committed not only an economic and environmental crime, but a cultural crime.
The real chocolate, like one which Théo makes, is a special product, as something from across the ocean is to be. A bar of this handcrafted chocolate is not comparable to a box of commercial chocolate when it comes to the content of goodness. Fair-trade, organic, slavery-free, vegan, healthy goodness brought to our continent by Fairtransport and processed by Theó's loving hands.
You can subscribe on Théo's website KakaoArbo.net to receive this incredible handcrafted, truly fair-trade chocolate and be a part of that change. For now easy delivery is offered to all Scandinavia. You can also read more about the values and philosophy behind, the sourcing and bean-to-bar process. (See the link in the first comment to the post.)
These stories change the world, and they shall be told. Join by subscribing for the chocolate but also do spread the word, share, tell, and let people choose.
The first wild greens are poking through! These last weeks, ramson, ground elder, nettles and many others have been busy covering the land with her spring jacket.
Walking around and picking these fresh and healthy goodies is a great source of seasonal joy for Suderbynians. A bit before our own garden starts to give its first real harvests, Nature's supermarket opened its doors and provided for us. (When you have to work to get your own food growing, it is easy to appreciate something tasty that grows on its own and that you just need to pick!)
But it's not only that we appreciate the amazing healthiness, the colors and flavors of the wild greens in our soups, spreads and teas.. They are also a reminder of our need to connect with the wild, to be in it, to be it.
Picking wild plants forces you to know and understand them, their landscape, their ecosystem (mistakes can be deadly!) and eventually reintegrate ourselves in the Natural world. Foraging is an amazing platform to reconnect with the nature in ourselves and realize how much we need to become natural beings again.
When you think about it, it is actually a pretty clever design trick from Mother Nature to include a bait in the landscape. To encourage humans to wander in the woods and in the plains, just to get them to wonder in awe at the perfection of such a creation.
Thanks JingwenYao Art for capturing this beautiful moment! ❤️
In Suderbyn, we only use compost toilets. Three weeks ago, our middle latrine compost box finished its decomposition process of roughly 12 months. During this period, various microorganisms and bugs actively ate, pooped, reproduced and died, turning human feaeces, leaves, sawdust and toilet paper into a well balanced rich compost!
The pile heated up to 55-60 degrees, at which dangerous bacteria such as Ecoli and Salmonella get killed.
After taking out the compost from its box, we will spread it on the fields where "heavy feeders" (plants that need a loooot of nutrients) will grow.
Even though we are 99% sure that all the nasty bacteria that we don't want in our food died, we are still careful: the plants that will grow in this compost, like corn and pumpkins, will produce their edible part away from the soil and since these bacteria cannot travel through the plant body, the only way to get contaminated by a potential survivor would be to eat something that got splashed with compost still containing harmful bacteria and that didn't get washed properly. Very unlikely, especially if one considers that such bacteria are in a hostile environment as soon as they get out of our bellies and that if they don't die in the compost, the other beings in our lively soil will surely take care of them mercilessly.
By now, you should probably be convinced that compost toilets are an hygienic, simple and efficient way to process humanure on site and turn it into a resource.
Sounds a tiny bit better than mixing poo with 10 liters of drinking water (especially on an island like Gotland suffering from water scarcity in the summer), disinfecting with chemicals and releasing it into rivers, knowing that many heavy metals and hormones will poison the wildlife...and maintain a costly sewage system for this.
But composting humanure is much more than this. It's our connection to the land, the way we close the loop and remind ourselves that we are animals.
It's a sacred cycle that allows us to make atoms travel from plants to humans to microorganisms and back to plants in a never-ending magical loop.
From this unique perspective, humans of Suderbyn acquire a new function: processing units turning plants into food for bacteria! It might sound a bit reductionist but it is actually a way to reintegrate ourselves in the complex web of life, as one humble step in a perfect system.
And from this humble soil we sprout as happy stewards of the land.
nspiration and connection! In these unprecedented times communities appear as an alternative – stronger than ever and more connected than before. While growing our local resilience, we in Suderbyn and thousands other communities also strengthen our large systemic actions. Though ECOLISE (European umbrella-organisation for community-led initiatives) could not meet physically for the General Assembly, it gathered for a great online assembly with over 50 delegates from national and regional networks of Transition, Ecovillages and Permacutlure movements, urban and rural community-led initiatives, research activists and policy changers. Folk from Suderbyn is typically there as besides being an ecovillage we are also an active hub for international and regional networks! 3-4 April 2020 will be remembered by as the celebration of our resilience and adaptation, strong connection and mutual support.
“Perhaps we cannot raise the winds. But each of us can put up the sail, so that when the wind comes we can catch it” — the quote of E.F. Schumacher was shared by the keynote speaker Daniel Christian Wahl and echoed in the group. These weeks we feel how the experience of community-led initiatives can serve the times of COVID-19 and the following crisis: how our tools and solutions for food and energy sovereignty, strong local communities and international solidarity, ecosystem restoration and climate change adaptation can also serve fundamental needs and happiness of the society.
When the world and its old socio-economic paradigm are facing an upcoming crisis, we see how resilience, practical solutions and social support cultivated by communities offer a strong alternative. When "business as usual" does not provide illusionary safety anymore, we turn towards our families and neighbours, friends and like-minded companions, towards land and local resources, towards homes and gardens, and ask What we can do differently.
ECOLISE represents a strong trust in communities and local actions, as well as the multi-local connection between networks all over Europe. We have so much to offer! Let the time of the crisis be the time of mainstreaming the solutions already developed and practiced by the communities!
Warm greetings and deep inspiration from #EcoliseGA2020! #ecolise
Ecovillages National Organization (ERO) took the opportunity and celebrated its 33 years of service for a more sustainable Sweden!
ERO is currently a participant in the EU project "Community Learning Incubator Partnership for Sustainability" (CLIPS II) which will strengthen ERO's ability to support those who want to start ecovillages in Sweden. We started the day with a mini-training about supporting and developing ecovillages / communities in CLIPS way with Nara Petrovic from Sunny Hill Ecovillage, Slovenia and Alisa Dendro from Suderbyn Ecovillage & NGO Relearn on Gotland.
After a healthy lunch and fresh air, we listened to Anders Nyquist, one of the real ecobypioneers in Sweden and experiencsd with Rumpans ecoby (founded in 1967) and Linda Nordfors, one of the promoters of Sweden's latest ecoby project, Ekoby Tallberget in Gnesta. She shared her view of a different kind of entrepreneurship in the "passionate economy".
We also held our annual meeting, with updates of ERO's work with CLIPS and what it can mean for Swedish ecovillages.
What's happening in the ecovillage? What projects are we running at the moment? Here you can follow our work and find out about exciting news and events!