Boekel Ecovillage has a climate proof food forest with hundreds of different edible trees and shrubs.
It’s climate proof for two reasons. First the amount of different plant species means different months the plants are at their most vulnerable and different months to harvest. Polyculture means resilience!
The other reason is that we have chosen some plant species that thrive in extreme weather conditions.
For example, we planted the sheepberry, whose fruits taste like banana and chocolate, which does well in soggy soil. The French onion soup tree also likes moist soil and its leaves taste like onion soup with cheese! The olive willow, on the other hand, produces more fruit when it is dry for a long time. These are often used in pies and jams.
For annual crops we use permaculture principles to give them the optimal chance to grow with the right conditions for each crop. To use herbs in the kitchen we make a herb spiral to make them strong and resilient.
Practical tip: How to make your own herb spiral!
2. Drinking water
One of the big problems of the future is the shortage of
drinking water, as in Rome in July 2017 and Cape Town which at the beginning of 2018 indicated that after a few months of drought four million homes would have to be cut off of drinking water.
In Boekel Ecovillage we save valuable drinking water by storing rain water in underground tanks (90.000 liters) for usage in the toilets and the washing machines. That is enough to last for 6 weeks. When drought continues after that, we have permission to pump ground water into the rain water tanks. We got permission from the regional water board because each day we infiltrate 9.000 liter of cleaned waste water into the soil. We store water in the soil under our houses. The waterplan has been made together with innovation experts of the regional water supplier and the water board.
3. Water for other usages
We have planned to dig an ecological swimming pool to avoid heat stress. At the end of a hot day a swim is a great way to cool down. A daily swim will increase health as it is a physical exercise.
We are also going to design water games for our children so they can play for hours with rain water and sand.
We have been brewing beer from drinking water and even brewed beer from filtered rain water.
4. Wood, fibers and other sources
The walls and roof of the houses are all biobased, wood and hempcrete.
Hempcrete is a way to store carbon. We store more carbon in our houses than was necessary to build them. We are going to grow trees specially to replace the facade cladding when it has deteriorated and needs to be replaced. The deteriorated cladding can be turned into biochar. Biochar has a multitude of possible usages.
We already make wine from tree sap and from invasive plant species, like Japanese knotweed.
We are also going to make street furniture out of tree trunks. We are going to design the street lights ourselves, because we want to make them bat friendly; with amber light. We also want to connect a motion detector, so that they remain off when there are no people on the street.
Even E-bike loaders are going to be made of tree trunks so we can store the carbon inside of them.
5. Biomass for energy
People have used biomass energy since the earliest “cave men” first made wood fires for cooking or keeping warm.
The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, wood, and waste.
Todo: Biochar explanation here.
1. Green recreation
Two famous artists designed a treehouse for guests. While the guests can get a taste of the sustainable life during the daytime they can sleep in a very special treehouse. In the morning a basket of breakfast goodies is ready for them, waking up with nature.
2. Science and education
Boekel Ecovillage works with 6-8 groups of students from different Universities of Applied Science per year. The students monitor the houses with sensors (at least 9 different sensors per house). One of the houses has 5 cases of each 9 sensors and that house will tweet about the air quality in the house with a twitter account called EcohouseBob.
Todo: We will be monitoring our houses with sensors, Fontys ICT examine, want to work together with Dutch health organisations for citizen science projects.
Info signs and measurable biodiversity plan.
3. Symbolic value
In Boekel Ecovillage we protect and nurture one animal species that will go extinct if we keep treating it the way we do. Its food gets poisoned, its air gets polluted, its habitats get threatened by sea level rise, floods, extreme rain, drought and heat stress. It’s the only animal species we really care about, but we are not kind to it. I am talking about humans.
4. Natural Heritage
1. Carbon storage
Todo: We store the carbon in trees and hempcrete into our houses. We reuse old cotton jeans as insulation material. We store more carbon in our houses than was necessary to build them.
We also store carbon in the soil by…
For the future ….biochar, cascading
2. Soil, water, air quality regulation
We will use Biomimicry principles to treat our wastewater. A helophyte filter is often called a “constructed wetland’. Water purification happens in nature in two ways: separation and degradation. In a helophyte filter (and a wetland), degradation is done by bacteria in combination with plants. Bacteria take up nutrients, turning organic matter into food for the plant and harmless by-products.
Plants take up substances such as nutrients, metal, minerals and retain solids (separation), prevent algae growth and add oxygen.
The municipality of Boekel has given us permission to filter both gray and black water with helophyte filters and then allow the filtered water to infiltrate into the soil.
Our ecological swimming pool will have a hydrophyte filter, which is made from water plants to clean the water in the pool. The hyrdrophyte filter will also be the habitat for one of the other species we protect, the Azure Damselfly.
3. Soil fertility
A healthy soil contains a good layer of humus, lots of worms and lots of fungi. The less you cultivate the soil, the better it is for soil life.
And the better the soil life, the better the fruit and vegetables that grow on it. Read here how we treat our soil to increase soil fertility. We apply lava meal, for example, to add minerals and trace elements to the soil. This has positive effects on soil life, plants and people.
4. Pest suppression (natural mechanisms to suppress pests and diseases).
Todo: high biodiversity prevents plagues
– little of the same crop
– predators so a plague can be stopped by predators
5. Soil erosion
Todo: use shrubs and trees to grow food
cover the earth with mulch
We have made a biodiversity plan for 10 different species of which two are wild bees and two are species of butterflies. Butterflies play an important role in pollinating flowers, particularly flowers that have a strong scent, are red or yellow in color and produce a large amount of nectar. Like bees, pollen collects on the butterfly’s body as it is feeding on a flower’s nectar.
Bees are even more efficient than butterflies at moving pollen between plants as their entire body can be covered in pollen. One of the species we are going to protect is the bumblebee. Bumblebees pollinate flowers through a method called “buzz pollination”, a rapid vibrating motion which releases large amounts of pollen onto the bee. In most situations, “buzz pollination” will allow a bumblebee to pollinate a flower in a single visit. Every two years an ecologist from the VCA Platform will check the progress of the species we protect and give advice if the species don’t thrive as planned.
Practical tip: How to help the bumblebee to hibernate in your garden.
7. Water storage
There are three ways we store water:
- In 9 underground watertanks of 10.000 liter we store all the rainwater from the rooftops. The water is used in the houses to flush the toilets and use in the washing machines. We save a lot of valuable drinking water and we make toilets and washing machines last longer, as rainwater has no lime.
- We store 9.000 liter filtered wastewater each day in the soil beneath the houses.
- We store water in the ecological swimming pool. The pool level will be supplemented by rainwater stored in an underground tank. The tank will be fed by water from a roof above the terras, that according to biomimicry principles looks and functions like a leaf. Solar panels will be constructed on the roof and store their energy into batteries. People on the terras can charge their phone or work on their laptop with power from the batteries.
8. Mediation of noise, wind and visual impacts
Trees and shrubs are perfect to mediate noise, wind and visual impacts, so we are going to plant them alot.
9 Flood protection
Boekel Ecovillage is on a hilltop, so our flood plan consists of being a refuge for people in the surrounding area if there is a flood. We are going to make wadis where necessary in case of extreme rain.
10 prevention of heat islands
Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather extreme. To avoid heat stress we are going to grow a lot of trees around our houses.
11 biodiversity loss
Boekel Ecovillage has a biodiversity plan that is so positive, if it succeeds, our province will connect the ecovillage to the Dutch Nature Conservation Area. A Community for Future that is part of nature!
Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES; Haines-Young & Potschin 2013)