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.
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!