Global EcoVillage Network

Baltic EcoVillage Network – an EU-govt-aided initiative

Some manuals written by the Baltic EcoVillagers about their experiences, methods (energy conservation/technology, farming, construction etc.)

About the project

Project “Ecovillages for sustainable rural development”

Nowadays people start thinking about changing their living habits towards being more socially, economically and ecologically responsible. One of the possible ways to do this is proposed by Ecovillage movement. Ecovillage principles aim to combine social–cultural environment with a low–impact way of living. Choosing to live in the ecovillage is choosing an alternative way to the individualistic, materialistic and consumer-oriented lifestyle.

Project aims at fostering ecovillages development as more sustainable way of living in rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region

Duration and budget
Project is implemented from 2010 to 2013. It is working under “Baltic Sea Region programme 2007-2013” and has total budget of 1.333.426 EUR, funded by European Union as well as contributed by project partners.

Main outputs
• 3 manuals based on case studies, covering guidelines for:
– Eco-settling practices;
– Environmentally – friendly technologies;
– Community living and social development in ecovillages.
• An ecovillage socio-economic sustainability assessment on-line tool;
• Recommendations for decision makers concerning ecovillages proper development;
• Ecovillage road for the Baltic Sea Region including ecovillages which are ready to introduce tourists into ecovillage life as well as pursue internship programs.

5 partners from different Baltic Sea Region countries are implementing the project. Project also has 10 associated partners.

Lead partner
Lithuanian Institute of Agrarian Economics,

Project partners
MTT Agrifood Research Finland,
Latvian State Institute of Agrarian Economics,
The West Pomeranian Business School,
Suderbyn cooperative society,

Associated project partners
GEN Europe,
GEN Finland,
Centre for Independent Social Research, www.cisr.u
St.Petersburg Forest Technical Academy,
Permaculture in Sweden,
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,
Ekoboforeningen Njord,
Council of the Baltic Sea States, CBSS Baltic 21 Unit,

Ash Comments:  I am currently mulling over ideas around the notion of what I am now calling ‘Village Farms.’ There are single-family farms, small scale farms, agribusiness farms. This idea is simple: a working farm or farms around which are developed a residential population, varied in age and livelihood, which both enjoys living in a rural, farm atmosphere and also supports the farm operation by purchasing its produce, helping at harvest times, and some of them have independent secondary production operations (like cheese-making, bakery etc.), whilst many do not do farm-related work at all, rather are doctors, lawyers, consultants, drive to work at nearby town or whatever. There could also be financial anchors such as a retirement home which has both residents on fixed income and also hires staff from the village and elsewhere.

Rather than being organised mainly around a philosophy or political cause (environmentalism, a particular religion etc.) this idea is very simple and secular: it is simply a population clustered around a working farm operation. In this way, it is hoped that more people can make a go of it in rural areas, which is not currently the case due to an almost complete abnegation of rural society by current governments throughout the developed world, who have basically ceded the most important policy decisions (how we live, our economic system etc.) to multinational corporations who in turn have foisted agribusiness on all of us using corporate ‘supermarket’ distribution points (aka ‘Big Box Store model’) which drive out local operations and turn small towns everywhere into dying wastelands which young people can’t wait to leave, meaning there is no generational continuity and therefore really only 3 classes: the chronically poor and usually unemployed; the employed but really just working to afford a basic lifestyle and with no generational continuityin terms of place or family fortune; the rich, many of whom also have no continuity, but some of whom – the super-rich – do. It’s not a very advanced system, unless if you count the raw numbers involved which indeed are greater than at any time in known history.

I am thinking of trying to mount a web-based drive to raise money to make in-depth studies of the bad effects of the Big Box model, but more importantly to analyse various hierarchical/organisational models for such a village, finding success and failure examples in places like the EcoVillage initiative highlighted above. Also maybe raise funds via IndieGogo or other methods to pay for studies from cyber-bases analysis services to project ideal population numbers in various climate zones (how many villagers per X-sized farm), also research the legal and funding issues, and also maybe come up with a plan to start 5 model Village Farms in Cape Breton, which plan including

a) how to fund them

b) how to organise them both in terms of project development and subsequent actual ongoing living management

c) how to actualize them

d) how to maintain ongoing interest and networks so that lessons are learned and more such Village Farms can be facilitated – if they prove worthy – in a wide range of terrain and jurisdictions throughout the world.

Ambitious? Yes, I guess. But really this is a one-step-first approach which mainly involves chewing over this idea and seeing if there is an affordable way to come up with a plan for how to go forward with 1-5 Village Farms on Cape Breton Island. That hardly qualifies as hugely ambitious.

A correlated idea is to launch a global ‘Think Tank for the 99%’, i.e. a cyber-funded Think Tank that tackles issues like this Village Farm example, both in terms of funding but also in terms of participation, in that they vote with their dollars as to what to study next. There could be many other topics (Common Law, organic farming methods in colder climates, various small business model templates to help people with start-ups, a research operation that takes peoples business ideas and spits out a comprehensive business plan for them (often the main stumbling block for startups) along with a funding initiative from within the 99% Think Tank community). Now this is ambitous and probably too hard to put into practice, but with all the automation possible nowadays, who knows. If I have time and ongoing interest, would like to look into this sort of thing further if for no other reason than the market numbers have been falling of late in Sydney (both during but also before the bad weather) and it is getting harder and harder to survive here in this situation with deteriorating economy and declining population. A recent Commission reported that this sort of thing is probably going to happen throughout Nova Scotia (not just the rural areas as has been the case for decades, and with urban Sydney the past 20 years), in which case things are going to get tough. And since the Commission did not look favourably on small business inititiatives (if I understood the 120 page report recommendations correctly), rather big business solutions (chiding us for not being Big Business friendly), and since big business has no real reason for being here really, I am not holding my breath that they will do anything substantive.

There is a chance they will allow the Ports Sydney PanamaxPlus container initiative to go forward, but with Chinese shipments down steeply this year, it could be one of those things that gets put on hold for 5-10 years – a very short time globally, but a long time for a local region in systemic crisis.

Meanwhile, although I have no doubt that it will never happen, also I have no doubt that if it did many of the world’s problems today would be solved by: simply banning agribusiness operations and making all farms authentically organic. This would bring rural to urban population ratios back into line (with more people living on or near farms than in cities), end chronic unemployment (and bad minimum wage for corporations employment) and generally promote a saner, healthier society and culture, which in turn would naturally revive a people and economy less beholden to corporate banking and other related cartels (energy, medicine, science, education etc.). It could work, although realistically speaking as we all know, it is highly unlikely.

Still, it says something about the current state of our societies in the developed and developing world that a high probability of success initiative seems so hopelessly out of the question. Indian farmers have been fighting back. And winning yield-per-acre prizes across the board using small-scale, non-agribusiness-input methods. Hopefully more people around the world, like the ecovillagers at top of this page, will make further progress.


Let us hope and pray they, and we, can do so.




Good bread article

Is Your Daily Wheat Bread Healthy?


It is rare to find an article critical of wheat that also mentions how sprouting and sourdough is worth considering (and why), and also mentions ancient grains. She doesn’t include rye, spelt and Red Fife as recommended grains – because they were hybridized in pre-industrial times, but she does point out that modern ‘dwarf variety’ wheat is to be avoided like the plague, and since Red Fife is not a dwarf variety and comes from Ukraine and Mennonite Russian farmers, I feel it’s good.

Obviously, it’s all a matter of opinion – not to mention controversy.

One point she makes which I have only vaguely heard about before is how different metabolic constitutions handle grains differently. I am certain this is true. For example the Swiss – who after all gave us muesli – handle grains well whereas Eskimos do not.

My personal opinion about all this – not set in stone – is more or less as follows:

Modern methods (rapid mixing, single-strain commercial, sugar-fed yeast, preservatives and additives etc.) have turned what was a basically healthy food into a basically unhealthy food. This is true of dairy, meat, eggs, even some vegetables I suspect, but bad white bread, being highly processed and ‘denatured’/dead, is especially bad when consumed regularly over time.

Whole grains  – or at least breads with at least 50% – are better, provided this is fresh-ground or recently stone ground. And of course organic. Fresh-ground is best because you still have vitamins (which decrease rapidly within 4 days of grinding). Here you have good nutritional value and synergy, not to mention natural fibre which eases digestion.

Sourdough is the way to go: the sprouting process begins with natural fermentation in a moist, warm environment and this natural fermentation is identical in essence to natural leavening (‘sourdough’), the main (and no doubt important) difference being that the grain has first been crushed vs. remaining whole and still able to sprout. No doubt one could argue about whether or not crushing the grain is a mistake, but my suspicion is that when such grains are fresh-ground and immediately soaked, all the living enzymes and microbial cultures make for a very lively soup which is nutritious and vital. I also believe that the slower the process you can use, the better so that enzymatic processes have plenty of time along with the fermentation – and rising – functions of the sourdough process.

Moderation: good bread (like mine) is fine if not used as the basis of a diet. Most bread-eating cultures always have a meal with bread on the side, as it were, not bread as the main filler with something on top. I think this is important. Generally, it is important to have a diet which features as much living enzymes as possible (fresh produce in summer, fermented/pickled stuff in winter). Cooking kills enzymes. It’s as simple as that. And that includes bread, albeit the way flavor changes over time with my 100% rye loaves sometimes makes me wonder what’s going on. In any case, in theory the enzymes are all killed off in the cooking process and I am fairly sure that’s the case.

That being the case, we have to provide enzymes for digestion – mainly from the pancreas I believe. Over time, if there is insufficient live enzymes coming into the system from living foods, this creates real problem down below, and perhaps (this is my theory) fosters imbalanced gut flora who get too much of a role to play down there not sufficiently contained/balanced by living enzymes in the mix.

Anyway, I have not kept up with the blog much but am planning to write a series of pieces about bread – and French Road Bakery bread in particular – principally as leaflets to go on my Farmers’ Market stall, but hopefully they will be of interest here as well. Summer is well over, the sailboat is ‘on the hard’, winter preparations well underway, the fire has been lit and stayed on overnight a couple of times and soon will be on all the time meaning the timing and preparation of the dough becomes simpler, so I will focus more on the bakery and writing those pieces.