Welcome to the Off Grid College, a four day short course in practical sustainable living.
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS TO THE 2018 OFF-GRID COLLEGE PROGRAM
See below for a taster of the Off Grid College Programme 2017
Abrazo House: an ecological learning centre in northern Spain
With Robert Alcock & Almudena Garrido
Friday 11th 3:30 – 5 pm
Building Materials Walk
With Tammi Dallaston from the Centre for Alternative Technology
Friday and Saturday 12th 1:30 – 3 pm
The Benefits of No Dig Growing
to Human Health and the Environment’
[An alternative to Charles Dowding’s approach]
With Martin and Sara Godfrey of Hilltown Organics
Sunday 13th 11 am – 12:30 pm
Martin Godfrey, assisted by his partner Sara, with a slideshow demonstrate the benefits to health and the environment of their no-dig growing system. Martin and Sara have recently formed a worker’s co-op in their fruit and veg shop ‘Harvest Farm Shop’ in Okehampton, Devon, where they sell produce from small growers, including from their land.
Their talk includes the following elements:
– polyculture planting
– no hoeing
– the incredible diversity of insects and wildlife natural no dig supports
– keeping soil covered with mulch at all times
– crops completing lifecycles, building a seed bank in the soil of useful plants
– integrating useful weeds with cultivated plants
– seeing value in perennial weeds such as hogweed, docks, dandelion, nettle etc
– the incredibly tasty and unique salad that this system produces
Charles Dowding’s ‘No Dig Approach’
With Stephanie Hafferty
Saturday 1:30 – 3 pm
Growing abundant food with no-dig methods, using mainly composted mulches.
This talk explains highly productive, bio intensive methods for growing food in market gardens and on a smaller scale, in domestic gardens and allotments, using techniques which have been developed by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty, co-authors of “No Dig Organic Home and Garden”.
Charles, widely considered to be a pioneer of no dig in the UK, has been growing commercially organically and no dig for more than 35 years in 4 different locations, from his first market garden of 8 acres in the 1980s to his present renowned amazingly productive 1/4 acre in Somerset which produced more than £25,000 worth of food last year. This offers incredible possibilities for food security in the UK and beyond. Stephanie grows as self sufficiently as possible in her home garden and allotment, and also works in community projects and creating kitchen gardens for restaurants and other clients.
No dig is a gentle process, working in balance with nature, protecting and preserving our precious soil. It is high yielding and saves time; you need less space to grow more food. Mulches of compost ensure less slugs and fewer weeds, very quick and easy to maintain with a hoe. Growing in a polyculture, grouping the same veg together for ease of management (protection of pests, harvesting) and intercropping ensures a wildlife rich biodiversity. Compost mulches give high yields and food for the whole season for plants and soil life, as nutrients in compost are not water soluble so stay available for second and third crops. This mulch also provides habitat for a wide range of wildlife and conserves water, reducing the need for watering. Wildlife is further supported and encouraged by leaving wild edges full of indigenous plants – no dig is extremely wildlife friendly!
In this presentation we will explore different ways of setting up this system, composting, growing under cover, useful tools, growing year round, crop protection, generating an income, annual and perennial edible plants including mixed annual/perennial ‘forest garden’ (our version of this), key seeds to save (if you don’t have much space!), storing and saving your harvest and a lot more!
Steph is an organic kitchen gardener, writer, teacher, chef, blogger and co-author of No Dig Organic Home and Garden with Charles Dowding. Based in Somerset Steph grows abundant vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs using no dig methods, almost self sufficiently in her smallish home garden and allotment. She works at Homeacres with Charles and runs a restaurant kitchen garden at an international art gallery. She writes about her work, potions, creations and her home gardening in her blog, NoDigHome. Her writing and photography has featured in many publications including Gardens Illustrated, Permaculture Magazine, Grow It (Now Kitchen Gardens Magazine) and Mark Boyle’s Moneyless Manifesto. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge of sustainable growing and cooking to feed families and communities.
Steph gives talks and workshops on various subjects including gardening and natural potion making across the country for gardening groups, WIs, Permaculture festivals, at River Cottage and other events. As part of this educational work, she has created pop up demonstration gardens for festivals and shows and was part of a team advising and participating in the transformed Horticultural Village at the Bath and West Show, to include more examples of edible gardens. Steph is currently working on a plant based recipe book.
How farms can be a local hub for the community
With Martyn Bragg
Sunday 13th 9 – 10:30 am
Martyn Bragg, founder of Shillingford Organics, will be talking about our model of how Farms can be a local hub for the community. We have started Farm School and Farm Community events in Shillingford Organics in March 2016, it all started with a conversation late January in the Purple sprouting broccoli field during our morning harvest, we were talking about how magical and rewarding it is to be able to see seeds growing into such an abundant, and beautiful crop and the question came up: ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could share this knowledge with people, adults and children?’ And we went from there. Our vision is to transform the community from the ground up, equip our children with the skill of working the land, befriending nature, and enable the adults to be engaged in their local farm life, feel part of it, which will inevitably result in increasing local, fresh food consumption, i.e healthier families, stronger local economy, and happier Earth.
Introduction to Nonviolent Communication
with Sophie Docker
Thursday 3:30 – 5 pm
Medicinal Forage Walk
with Clare Sheppey and Helen Kearney
Saturday 12th, 11am – 12:30 pm
Join us on a herb walk and learn to identify, harvest and use commonly found plants to treat everyday ailments.
Learn to make a healing balm using herbal infused oil and beeswax.
Helen Kearney and Clare Shippey are Devon based Herbalists. Helen lives and works at Elder Farm; a 5 acre off grid organic herb farm which is being established using permaculture principals. She has a degree in Herbal Medicine and is a member of the National Institute of Herbal Medicine. Clare trained for her degree at the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine and qualified in 2010. She has a regular clinic in Totnes.
They can be found running seasonal workshops together on many different aspects of herbal medicine. From botany to harvesting, home herbal medicine and remedy making. They are both tutors on the Betonica Herbal Apprenticeship.
With Merlin Howse from Steward Community Woodland
Friday 11th, 1:30- 3 pm
This session is aimed at those wishing to learn about DIY solutions to renewable energy, whether that is for environmental reasons, practical reasons, or preparing for a future where we can not rely on power from the grid.
An overview of micro-renewables for practical off-grid living:
* Energy acquisition – This involves the use of solar, micro-hydro, wind turbines and other technologies to harvest the renewable forms of energy around us.
* Energy conversion – Some forms of energy acquired will require conversion to be useful to their application. This might be by use of a generator for example.
* Energy storage – Ways in which you can store your power for later use
* Energy application – How best to make efficient use of your power. This will include energy efficiency, inverters for mains appliances and converting appliances to 12v.
Merlin Howse lives at Steward Community Woodland, a low impact, permaculture community in a 32 acre mixed woodland on the edge of Dartmoor.
“I have lived off-grid in the community since the project
started in 2000. Since being here we have explored various methods of
renewable energy use from as simple as a camp fire to keep warm at night
to micro-hydro and photovoltaic solar systems with charge controllers
and storage. I have always had a keen interest in electrics and so one
of my main roles in the community is maintaining our renewable energy
systems. During this time I have learned lots of new skills which I
love to share with others. I also run courses on the subject!” Merlin Howse
With Sarah Houghton
Friday 11th, 9 – 10:30 am
With Nick Mercer
Saturday 12th, 3:30- 5 pm
As Campaign for Real Events, Nick Mercer operates small child sized pedal generators in schools, community events and home education sessions. The generators are made mostly from recycled items with things like cotton reels, vacuum cleaner belts and motors from printers clearly visible to emphasise ease of copying.
This year’s talk will concentrate on highly portable systems for amplifying mp3 music from phones aimed at teen projects.
Permaculture for the body
With Lizzie Franklin and Dick Thompson
Friday 12th, 11 am – 12:30 pm
In this modern world, our bodies are breaking down, much like our mismanaged ecosystems.
We know more about the body now than ever before. But it’s taken for granted that as we get older, things start to shut down. It doesn’t have to be this way. With permaculture we have been given a way to interact with complex systems in a more beneficial way, and it all starts with our ability to observe.(and be aware)
The further our systems are out of balance, the better our observational skills need to be. The body is a system of systems, and these systems can work together, against each other or harmoniously. Right now, the odds are stacked against us. As a consequence, few of us are in great shape and we know it. But how to stop and reverse the spirals of erosion we are experiencing in this system of systems that we all inhabit?
In this talk we will discuss how to restore the balance of the ecosystem that is our body, particularly with respect to posture, digestive health & aches and pains.
with Clive Dragon
Saturday 12th, 11 am – 12:30 pm
Rainwater harvesting can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be.
Most of the talk will be about observation of needs and solutions made as simply as possible.
From leaving a bucket outside for animals to drink from, through to harvesting for the new build home.
I wish to leave time for others to share their ideas and solutions and hope for questions I can’t yet answer.
How else do we learn but from each other? -Clive
Round Wood Timber Framing
With Richard Bates
Saturday 12th, 9- 10:30 am
Come and join Richard for an informal chat about round timber framing, his experience of working with coppicing and woodland crafts, and living off grid in the woods. We will look at why round timber framing is good, and suited to off grid homes, and inexperienced builders.
Take a look at jointing techniques, tools required. Richard will be demonstrating an example of butter part joint and showing some example of projects.
Understanding Off Grid Energy Systems
With Ian Westmoreland of Demand Energy Equality
Sunday 13th 1:30 – 3 pm
Off grid energy systems are no longer just for people living off the grid. With the growth of microgrids and home energy storage products, understanding how to combining renewable energy generation with battery storage is more relevant than ever.
This session will set you up for a dive into the world of off grid energy. You will learn the basics of using intermittent renewable energy generators, batteries and appliances in an off-grid system, whether it’s for a small solar panel on your garden shed or a utility-scale battery installation to back up a wind farm. You will also get a closer look at some of the typical components found in any off-grid system: charge controllers, inverters, energy monitors, and more.
Ian is a director of Demand Energy Equality, an organisation that runs grassroots, practical energy workshops to provide insight into basic energy concepts and challenges. The workshops provide hands-on access to renewable energy technologies, enabling participants to explore the future of energy and to understand the links between energy use, consumer society and climate change.
Wild Food Foraging Walk
With Trudy Turrell
Friday 11th and Sunday 13th 11 am – 12:30 pm
Come on a stroll around the site and find out how to eat, enjoy, prepare and preserve some of the amazing edible wild plants to be found in the woods, fields and hedgerows. After a stroll to gather some of nature’s wild bounty, we’ll cook and prepare some dishes to eat together. Salads, soups and herb teas could all be on the menu- plus I’ll be bringing a selection of seaweeds gathered from Devon’s wild coasts for you to taste and learn about- a true superfood that’s abundant, delicious and free!
There will also be a chance to find out how to preserve the wild food that you gather; from drying to making jams, cordials, vinegars and pickling, plus lots of tasty tips on cooking it too! Bring your children who will love spotting things to eat and try too!
“I have been gathering food from the wild since a teenager. Having studied some archaeology, I’m fascinated by how our ancestors would have gathered all they needed to eat from the land and sea and how we still can with some basic knowledge and skills.
Working in countryside conservation throughout South Devon for 20 years, I built on my knowledge of plants and habitats and shared them with hundreds of people through the guided walks and activities programme that I ran. I have hosted wild food suppers for 40, forages for classes of school children, foraging skillshares and best of all, shared my knowledge with my own children, who are to be seen chomping from the hedgerow as they stroll along! ( see my daughter at 4 , seaweed foraging!)
I’m particularly passionate about seashore plants- including all our wonderful superfood seaweeds- and about the many ways in which we can preserve and use nature’s bounty by preserving, drying and pickling.” – Trudy Turrel
What is Permaculture?
What is permaculture? You’ve probably heard of it, but do you know what it is? Oor how to use it? This informal presentation will give an overview of the very basics of Permaculture and is aimed at those who are curious to discover its meaning, it’s origins and it’s many and varied applications. It aims to dispel the myth that Permaculture is entirely about no dig/organic gardening!
This will be a colourful, and sometimes interactive, gallop through the Ethics and Principles, the planning and design tools, and their practical application to our everyday lives.
Marion lives on a one acre Permaculture Garden in North Devon where she keeps hens and bees and grows as much food as she can. She is currently in the process of creating a ‘People care Project’ on her woodland plot and will also be convening, with others, an ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ weekend on 16th / 17th September near to Barnstaple.