Chickenshack at 20

Brynllwyn in 1995 shortly after we first moved there.

The story of Chickenshack Co-op began in Zimbabwe in 1990/1. A chance conversation led to a chance encounter which led me and friend Sue to the village of Chimanimani in the eastern mountains there. A wonderful and unexpected  opportunity to care take a pemaculture designed small holding quickly evolved into the opportunity to develop a derelict neighbouring property, using the knowledge and momentum from the first project. The new property had once been the home of John Wilson a permaculture pioneer in Zimbabwer involved in several key early permaculture projects in that country. Ever since that time my life has also been inextricably linked to the world of permaculture.

Chikukwa permaculture project, Zimbabwe

Chikukwa permaculture project, Zimbabwe

Looking after the small holding of Graham Metlerkamp had taught me so many new things and slowly the idea to apply this learning to new and subsequent projects really took hold. The first port of call was the neighbouring property, which has now evolved to become Heaven Lodge an absolutely stand out destination for travellers in Southern Africa in itself, let alone the stunning region surrounding it.

Heaven backpackers lodge Chimanimani

Heaven backpackers lodge Chimanimani

One of the first real sources of inspiration came when we visited Chikukwa in 1991 and met Uli and Ellie Westermann, two German teachers who had naturalised to the traditional Mashona homeland area, and who in consultation with John Wilson, the previous owner of Heaven helped begin the impetus that has gone on to transform the whole of the Chikukwa area.

Read The Chikukwa story in Permaculture Magazine

The combination of these and other experiences led me to discover my own passion for permaculture and realise a determination to take this ideas and put them into practice via my own life an work. So the dream of Chickenshack was born and on my eventual return to the UK  I set about finding ways I could both learn more about permaculture and put the ideas into practice myself. I have to mention my great friend at the time Andreas Heigl, it is in part down to him that we actually called the housing co-op that name, we had lived in a wooden shack in Zimbabwe and kept chickens so there had been lots of jokes and silly names around chickens at the time, including a band and a repertoire of silly songs, but with Andreas the Chickens name kind of stuck. When we reunited in a camping site in Amsterdam in 1993 he even coined the word Hunchenfest, for Chicken party, i used it as a net pseudonym for a while.

Andreas Heigl, was the first of our friends and supporters to contribute to the Chickenshack loanstock fund. Here he is helping fit the door from the cottage to the larder, some years later.

Andreas Heigl, was the first of our friends and supporters to contribute to the Chickenshack loanstock fund. Here he is helping fit the door from the cottage to the larder, some years later.

It was through the support and belief of dozens of people like Andreas that the idea grew into a reality. I bumped into a woman called Stephanie McCann in the Green Futures field at Glastonbury and she told me all about Housing Co-operatives, Radical Routes and how to buy and manage property without necessarily having capital. Suddenly what had been a whimsical aspiration become a potential realistic proposition.

That's me in 1994, having moved to Wales and contemplating launching Chickenshack

That’s me in 1994, having moved to Wales and contemplating launching Chickenshack

It still didn’t really seem real when we  put our offer in on the property in early 1995, we still didn’t have much of the money and only barely had a few members committed to living there, as people kept getting all excited about the prospect then dropping out when the full complexity of the challenge presented itself.

Then came the Permaculture design course at Centre for Alternative technology and that served to click all the pieces into place. We only had 3 of the required 8 members in place at that time and still needed money, we had allowed our focus to broaden to make the coop more broadly appealing, who knew what permaculture was all about after all?

My certificate from the 1995 PDC with Mike Feingold

My certificate from the 1995 PDC with Mike Feingold

But with course all that changed. the design course not only gave us a why, it gave us a how, it showed how to prioritise, via zoning where to place by sectors, it showed how to make decisions by consensus. Ironically the tighter the focus for the co-op the more attractive it became. It became easier to explain what is was all about and how it was going to run. we found our other 5 members on the course and in the surrounding community, we had our focus, our raison d’etre and momentum was finally on our side.

The basic lay out of the land, the position of the veg garden, orchard, forest garden, wind breaks, paths and much more was mapped on on the PDC as our group design project. It has been a fascinating process to see how it has matured and how well it has all worked, over the years and the successive residents and members of the co-op.

I have too many memories to try and list them here, I dug out a handful of battered old photos from those early days and I have scanned a few of them in. I would like to write much more about the whole experience, and the three other housing co-ops I have been closely involved in starting, the fourth of which I currently reside at.

The whole thing has been and continues to be an amazing journey and thank everyone who has been part of it so far. I am certain that the co-operative model is one of the most powerful tools we have to transform our society and to empower us all to pursue our dreams of sustainability and abundance.

View at Chickenshack 2015

View at Chickenshack 2015

I am going to be there this weekend, and will be photographing and making some sound clips and video for posterity. it feels like a significant achievement for all concerned and hopefully can act as inspiration for future potential projects.

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything
Chris Reid’s Dad

 

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Paul Mason on a new kind of economy

This guy is well worth paying attention to. He has been writing and talking on this subject for a while, here is a succinct and engaging summary of his core idea.

Meanwhile, here is a subject close to my heart. Chickens.

Any talk of a new kind of economy has to think a lot about co-operatives and other similar forms of mutual ownership and control of assets likes homes and businesses. Since when did we become a nation of property speculators?

Anyone who know me will know that we are celebrating 20 years of co-operation at Chickenshack Co-op this year, and here is a party even this weekend. Chickenshack was our bold attempt to pioneer a permaculture inspired community, one that follows and embraces the values of Earthcare, People Care and individual choices to limit consumption and re-invest surplus for mutual benefit. we are thrilled to celebrating their 20th anniversary this month and reflecting back on the many ups and downs along the way to getting there. Here at Sector39 we are finding an increasing interest in Co-operatives as an alternative route to housing and we are putting together training packages and talks for aspiring co-operators.

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On Chicken welfare!

Chicken care.. how to team up with your Chooks for happiness and abundance.

Here is a great article on caring for your precious Chooks. From The Happy Chicken Coop.

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Podcast008, Summer updates, its a busy time for Permaculture

Please listen, share and enjoy. This summer, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Chickenshack Housing Co-op we have launched a new housing and worker co-op in Llanrhaeadr and moved in. We ran a full run a PDC in June, appeared at 4 festivals and events and am now planning for our September PDC in Wales and a November one in Uganda as well as taking part in the International Permaculture Convergence and Conference. All this and more!

New Media
I am developing a strong interest in community radio and alternative routes to broadcasting, having become tired and disillusioned with state owned an controlled media and the billionaire media barons that run the airwaves. As they jam the media full of anti-Corbyn rhetoric it is rather clear who has access to the controls and that any dissenting voice is going to get shouted over, our drowned in the never ending torrent of bullshit they are forever spouting. Would love to hear from others with similar interests.

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Next PDC will be in Llanrhaeadr and will focus on co-operatives and community as key drivers for a sustainable and resilient future

Up and coming courses:

1, PDC in Llanrhaeadr, Mid Wales, from Sept 20th

Please get in touch if you would like to know more about this. We are really keen to hear from people in the Llanrhaeadr area as well as elsewhere, the ideal mix is half local and half rest of the world.

I am also putting together a new Crowdfunder campaign to support the course and we have already had a couple of applications from people on very low incomes who would like to be able to attend. I am hoping we can learn how to use these new media opportunites much more effectively as they open up so many new opportunities. I have discussed this is in the latest podcast.

PDC in Uganda planned for this November

PDC in Uganda planned for this November

 

This is a very exciting prospect. We plan to bring 12 Ugandan students of agro forestry and sustainable farming together with 3 or 4 international permaculture students to be able to offer this 2 week course. We will also have the chance to visit a series of projects and initiatives that Dolen Ffermio have been involved with over the last 20 years. Lots more to say about this… and again I have mentioned it in the Podcast.

Last years’ visit to Eastern Uganda was a real highlight and it was extremely inspiring to see all the work going on there. This course aims to reinforce and help share the learning and progress made on these projects.

Apologies for the rushed posting.. more soon!

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Updates from the Permaculture front line

It has been a hectic three months , hardly had time to touch the ground. Am working on the next edition of the podcast at the moment, but also away in Cardiff and Swansea for a long weekend, so more when I get back.

We have moved successfully in to the new housing co-op, still feels like there is lots to do but it is great to have fully moved across the road and now be ensconced in the new place. Since we started the PDC in June I have been at Glastonbury festival for 8 days, followed by the Workhouse party, where I joined the cooking crew to make curry for 120 people, which was lots of fun.

A serene corner amongst the mayhem of Glastonbury festival

A serene corner amongst the mayhem of Glastonbury festival

We are now planning for a September PDC in LLanrhaeadr, and we hope to reach out to the local community with that and try and kick start a much more focussed dialogue about transition and resilience for our community here.

I have also been working on my publicity as well as doing talks and outreach, at Llangollen at the Concious tribal gathering, which was interesting and where me made lots of new friends.

I placed a piece in the local newsletter about the new co-op launch in the belief that it is always better to be open and inclusive in our plans so that other wise people dont have to second guess what you are up to. SO far the new venture has been well received and we are excited to be anticipating opening up the shop as soon as we can and start welcoming people inside.

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Dr Rock Radio show

Ever since I was invited to guest on a show on CHOM-FM Montreal Rock radio as an impressionable 17 year old I have had a passion for radio and its potential as a powerful form of communication. I don’t think the medium has been well explored, especially here in the UK with its crowded airwaves and BBC dominance and its vast potential especially as a community medium and alternative information channel remains untapped. We have been subjected to decades of A+R approved play lists and even the same few radio voices to the point of distraction and abandonment, high entry costs and tight media ownership and control has left us with a monochrome and exceedingly narrow window on the wider world.

All of this has of course changed with the rise of the Internet but for whatever reason Internet radio has largely passed me by and I suspect a great many others as well. A deluge of content has ensued but its been hard to single out the voices worth paying attention to. The advent of the podcast has opened more doors and I have already dared to stick my toe in that particular water, I remain keen to go forward to develop a regular podcast format show. I see a great potential in covering the kind of issues I care about and talk about on here,  joining together intelligent and thought provoking conversation with great music from across the spectrum and well off the favoured playlists of mainstream broadcasters..

That said I was thrilled to be invited along to contribute to the regular Internet radio show and podcast hosted by Dr_Rock last week, someone who presents in the format I have always felt is missing from the airwaves. Here is the show, where together with friends and colleagues Andrea, Steph and Ollie we got to take part in a recent 3 hour broadcast, discussing a variety of issues including natural bee keeping, permaculture and rain forest medicine.

We are also planning to contribute to this week’s show, which will be broadcast from the Concious Camp Tribal Gathering, held in a beautiful riverside field near Llangollen. So look out for this broadcast and hopefully many more in the future.

Dragons Radio Channel?

With encouragement from our radio host and other friends surrounding us we have a growing enthusiasm to do something regularly along these lines ourselves. The new co-op premises in Llanrhaeadr could provide a perfect base from which to broadcast and hold regular sessions for interviews and generating other content for a regular show.

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Dragons Co-op are planning to host their community internet radio broadcast

I am really keen to see new media content on a regular basis that develops permaculture, sustainability and transition ideas and links them to social change. Live folk music, organic growing updates, Crowdfunding campaign news, cutting edge debate and ideas, exploring decentralised locally orientated media and much more will form some of the main themes for our planned broadcasts.

It is early days for this idea but one I hope that is gaining momentum and I for one want to get it off the drawing board as soon as we are settled in at the new premises. We hope that Dragons Co-op can be a powerful shop window for permaculture ideas and can help connect a great many people to projects and enterprises that embody their own values and reflect their enthusiasm for a much more sustainable, compassionate and saner world. One thing I am sure about is that the low carbon, post industrial sustainable economy we must rapidly transition to will have to be much more locally focussed than it currently is, community radio and other decentralised channels of communication will surely play an essential part of that process.

I for one am really keen to gain much more experience in this area and explore the opportunities it presents Anyone who might want to help us out with this ambition is welcome to contact me and find ways to become involved.

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Endorsement

We continually get great feedback from our course participants, such that we suld make more of an effort to collate and share the feedback we get. Here is Ollie from our most recent course, held in Llaniloes this June.

Permaculture is one of the most powerful tools we have for grassroots change in the world today. We were recently honoured to partake in a life changing permaculture design course, directed by Steve Jones in North Wales. Permaculture gives us the knowledge and framework to design for a sustainable future for almost anything… It’s principles can be applied to your life, your garden, or to redesigning Britain. Steve does an excellent job of presenting ideas which will change the way you look at the world forever. If you have any motivation to learn and make a difference then I would highly suggest applying for the course and getting involved. It does not take an genius to realise that our current collective path on earth will come to and end one way or another. Be a part of the positive transformation…

Next up, Septemebr in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant

Next up, Septemebr in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant

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PDC presentation: One Planet Living, by Bruce, Conor & Ieva

The following presentation was a final design exercise on our recent PDC in Llanidloes. See what happens when you put a soil expert with a small scale renewable energy systems guy and then put a sensitive yet bold Lithuanian woman in the middle.

This was a truly fantastic presentation, realising the enormous potential of local site, picked out as one planet living, self build, 6 acre plot. The client, Simon had been fully consulted by the team, and indeed he had himself completed the PDC with Sector39 at the same venue last year.

I suggest you play the audio (its 67 minutes long) but well worth listening to, and scroll through the photos and video to illustrate the design ideas. Shame we were not able to film it, but I hope the audio and pictures do it justice. Annoyingly I was timing the presentation with my phone, so there are clicks and pops of interference, I have taken loads out and cleaned it up a lot, sorry it is not perfect, but time didn’t allow any more.

Audio:

The client interview

The client interview

The client interview was recorded as we had limited transport available so one of the design team was unable to attend, they turned this limitation to an advantage with their design process.

The field

The field

Its a six acre field so it hard to catch in one shot, but with vale of Kerry before you, it is a stunning location, and all looking south. The Client’s vision is too think about three generations of family establishing an abundant, bio-diverse food and energy system, based on natural inputs only. They imagine a roundhouse of straw and clay, and the ability to meet most of their own needs from the land whilst generating a small surplus for trade and community.

The Site, is not owned nor is there planning permission, so on one level this is purely an academic exercise, although the client fully intends to develop something t these specifications on a site similar if not exactly this one.

The design team worked really well as a team and also drew heavily on their own individual strengths and depth of knowledge. With their permission of course, I plan to use this as a teaching resource as it is such an excellent presentation in many ways, not least as it present holistic, wonderfully interconnected and longer term vision for the potential of this site and client family might be able to achieve. Being able to visualise and communicate  vision of a sustainable future is a truly wonderful thing in the troubled times .

 

 

Larger version of the design map

Larger version of the design map, click to explore

Zone one area map

Zone one area map

 

 

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September PDC in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant

September PDC in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant
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We are excited to be offering our next PDC in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, the tiny Welsh mountain village made famous by its stunning waterfall. Located only 45 mins drive from Shrewsbury and 12 miles from Gobowen mainline station, this village is buried deep in the unspoilt Mid Wales countryside, by the Berwyn mountains.

 

The area is home to numerous permaculture projects and housing co-ops, which will form the backbone of our site visits and practicals. We are about to launch our own latest project in the area, a housing co-op and community shop. The course will use the PDC framework to look deeply into co-ops and other community led solutions, including local currencies and trading schemes. It is our contention that Crowd funding, ethical investment and local currencies offer up a whole new layer of opportunities that are yet to be fully exploited, never has it been a more interesting time to be involved in permaculture! Come along and find out why.

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View of the Berwyn Mountains

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Wages of Rebellion: Chris Hedges talks of the moral imperative of revolt

Chris Hedges is a fierce academic and brilliant writer. The Pulitzer prize winning journalist spent 20 years in war zones, from Yugoslavia to Iraq and has seen US empire and corporate forces at their worst. This is his call for mass civil dis-obedience and he talks of the imperative of revolt. On Climate change alone we have no time left, yet his message is optimistic and stirring, this is well worth taking the time to watch.

Its not our job to take power, it is our job to build powerful movements that hold fast to moral imperatives that hold power in check. Chris Hedges

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Donation by collectible artist Dale Marshall, towards our fundraiser campaign

NB the silent auction for this work ends on Friday 5th June at midday UK time (BST)

See our Crowdfunder campaign
Balloons, by Dale Marshall, this work has been donated towards supporting permaculture education @sector39

Balloons, by Dale Marshall, this work has been donated towards supporting permaculture education @sector39

Title: Balloons Charcoal #2.
Description: 38 x 51cm Charcoal and graphite on Rutland heavy grained archival 300gsm paper

Dale Marshall is a collectible artist practicing locally. He has generously donated this work on paper for a silent bid auction to support our project and our long term vision.

Please email your bids to : Steve@sector39.co.uk
If you win you will then be required to use the donations facility to pay in full at the end of the auction.

We would like to say thank you to Dale for this kind donation.

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