I arrived at le Jardin de Verrines on a pleasantly mild Saturday afternoon, the week before last. I have been here for 8 nights now. Le Jardin de Verrines is a small-holding belonging to an unassuming gent by the name of Gerard Deremetz. Gerard originates from Paris but it is hard to picture him in an urban environment, so at ease is he in the activities which preoccupy him on the property. But what exactly is LJDV?
In a nutshell it’s a permaculture project. If you, like me, are new to the idea think sustainability, harmony, recycling and all those compellingly ‘green’ concepts people like to talk up but which few actually take the time to fully implement. You can read about it on Wiki – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture – or look at Gerard’s excellent site – http://lejardindeverrines.ning.com. The idea is essentially one of living harmoniously within the local environment taking into account ecology, climate, soil as well as social elements. The idea is to minimise the impact on the ecosystem of the site through raising and harvesting food plants – trees, shrubs and vegetables – alongside wild plants: no artificial chemicals or pesticides employed; All waste products recycled (that includes human waste as well).
Reading that induced a reflex recoil perhaps? Isn’t that unsanitary? After a week of using the 3 natural compost toilets allocated to me near my caravan home I can tell you that it is not the case. You do your business and afterward cover it with a few jar-fulls of sawdust. It is not immediately evident the effect the sawdust will have but after 24 hours or so it absorbs all the moisture from the excrement and the result is remarkably odourless. If necessary you can add a bit more if there is any hint of an odour and it soon vanishes.
I will be here until the weekend. This week Gerard will be showing me how to construct a rocket stove. I’ve already seen one in use this last Saturday when a few volunteers came over and helped in the garden. One of them, Katia, brought her rocket stove along and cooked up some sausages. This was achieved with a minimal amount of fuel: a few twigs and softwood off-cuts. Last week I learnt how to arc-weld. Along with another helper, Paul, a young chap employed at the town hall of neighbouring Vasles (le Mairie), we manufactured a frame to support a bicycle.
On Thursday we went to the town of Saint Fraigne in the department of Charente, about an hour’s drive away. We delivered the frame to a group whom I assumed to be in part municipal employees and in part volunteers. Gerard demonstrated the principal and after our bike was mounted on the frame and attached to an old Siemens washing machine they provided. This all took place over the course of the day. Photos of the manufucature and demonstation are shown in the gallery below in addition to an uploaded clip from my phone.
A link to the project on Gerard’s website: Step-by-step guide to creating the ultimate green washing machine
I don’t imagine that many of you watching this will feel enthused enough to go and dismantle your washing machine at this stage! But if and when it packs up and a new appliance is beyond your reach you will at least have an idea of an alternative solution, especially if you want to enhance your green credentials and want to boost your exercise regimen!
Here is another gallery on Google Photos which shows some snaps of the garden: