local meeting of permaculture projects at Mas La Llum

Guest writer Ale Fernandez from Roig 21 in Barcelona has written a piece on the latest happenings at Boodaville, (version en castellano no disponible – perdona)

In the middle of lots of assemblies and spreadsheets I came upon a Boodaville event/non-event where basically it was just spending the weekend with a bunch of permaculture teachers who were visiting another bioconstruction close by after giving a workshop in Mas Franch which has brought over lots of people from around the world.So we came to boodaville for a last weekend before it gets too cold for this kind of thing. All these people signed up to come and promptly flaked out and only Klaudia, Aniol and myself were left by the end of the week. Life in the city was getting too dreary and we needed a holiday. So we came up here hungover and far too late in the night. Arriving at 5.50am boodaville seemed ghostly . In typical chaotic mediterranean style, we’d arranged to leave at 3pm from Barcelona, and left in the end at 2am from Sitges.

* We’d come to visit Mas La Llum, a strawbale construction which is battling the spanish bureaucratic legal system to put together a “Casa de Turismo Rural”, a type of traditional rural hostel that carries an official stamp. To have this certification you need animals and plants on site, and you have to be able to live off them as well as from the money paid by the people who come and visit.

The certifications cost the same as the house itself, furnished with donations from friends, a few strategic bits and mostly as a result of establishing a place in which to leave recycling collected in the street. So this house was built from the use of a space in the city to collect bits and pieces from the street (in Barcelona, furniture can be left out once a week, and most people can go on that day and pick up whatever they find and hopefully clean out whatever is infesting it and upcycle them). So they collected tons of stuff and now they have a slowly emptying room where all their furniture and most of their building materials came. The house cost 200 euros per square metre.

So to be “legal” for example, you need a “proper toilet” i.e one that relies on water management techniques that are generally failing and getting more and more expensive to maintain. So even if you want to be as ecofriendly as ever and have one of those lovely shiny indoor compost toilets, you need to install an unsustainable one, as well as your compost toilets, just to comply. Their compost toilets were amazing by the way. They were bought for 700 euros and separate pee and poo to treat in different ways and are ventilated. Marta explained how the solids are kept 6 months then mixed with earth and stored another year before being used in the field. In an urban environment that might be a crucial supply of soil for urban gardens and vegetable production. They might be the answer to high water bills and pollution that our antiquated city toilets involve, who knows. But Spanish legislation is so old fashioned –  you even need radiators in every room. In your home in Spain, you may rejoice to find you can put in a compost toilet and make some compost each year for your house, but “public use” means rural homesteads or casas rural are very hard work.

Marta of Mas La Llum spoke of the price of purifiers for water, and how 3 villages had rebelled against the government. They impose the rule that you need these things in order to have a proper water supply, and they give you the actual thing already made – and it’s for about 1000 people and you have to buy and maintain it. So it’s prohibitive, and these 3 villages didn’t want it. They wanted to filter their water via natural processes. But the government took away public funding for other services until all the villages caved in except for one (asterix and obelix spring to mind) and it’s now suffering huge financial issues as they have no public money, as a perverse punishment for being so eco-friendly.  The village is called Fabara

We also talked about the famous “solar tax” where anyone generating their own power has to pay the ailing spanish fossil fuel lobby as an “ayuda” or help. This year everyone had to go to the industry ministry and declare their energy generation, and next year, Marta fears they will all have to pay something, wether they feed their electricity back to the grid or not. Marta fears local currency such as the one promoted by Ecoxarxa del Ebre will soon be taxed too, as the government tries to find more ways to make money to pay back it’s debt.

Speaking of toilets, when I arrived to Boodaville I flopped on a bed and slept until about 8am when I went out in a trance to find the compost toilets, and there was a geeko hiding in the toilet paper compartment! If I find our little reptilian bathroom attendant I’ll take a photo.

Marta was interested in Dragon Dreaming courses and in having people visit. Not just her place but a lot of people gathered there were trying to form an Ecoxarxa (a type of food and alternate economy network) and a mailing list, and all of them need hands, help and people to come and bring info or potential guests to Matarraña or the surrounding area of the Lower Ebro and Delta del Ebro. One friend was doing some cob building in the next few weeks and has space for up to 20 people to come to help, provided they get in touch first. Also I know for a fact there’s loads and loads of abandoned villages that need to be repopulated.

Cecile, one visitor to the Mas La LLum was in a film called “Cecile al Delta” and had gone around the area for a whole year WWOOFing. The film talks about her teaching kids about various bioconstruction and permaculture tecniques.

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