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Super sustainable, renewable resource: wool!

With living self reliant, things like sustainability and renewable sources become much more important. We don’t want to repair or replace stuff all the time; things should just work. For a long time.
So the quality of our resources is important. And I have a favorite resource: sheep wool! I love it so much; I wear it, sleep on & under it, put it in my shoes and insulate the house with it. It grows back (on the sheep) every year and woolen products are easy to repair.

Why wool is great

Sheepwool is amazing. Just a few crazy facts:

  • Sheep wool takes 600º Celsius before it starts burning. Try it yourself: it is really hard to burn wool. And therefore it is also a great fire extinguisher!
  • Wool can also absorp up to 30% of its own weight in water, without feeling wet.
  • Wool regrows every year (renewable!) and keeps its good properties for about 80 years (sustainable!).
  • Sheep fur even seems to lower CO2 in the air!
Working with wool
Working with wool

The benefit of wearing woolen clothes

Wool breathes, ventilates, and insulates because of the air pockets. Temperature and moisture are regulated, so woolen clothes are nice in warm and cold weather. It protects your body against sudden temperature rises and falls.
But one of the best aspects according to me, is that wool is self cleaning! Because of the lanoline in it (which works also anti bacterial). I hang my wollen clothes in the sun & wind and after a few hours they are “as good as new”! No washing machine needed.
Oh, and by the way: you never ever have to iron woolen products because wool is sort of elastic & jumps back in shape! 🙂

Sheep wool & health

Because wool regulates moisture and temperature, it is not an attractive environment for dust mites or moulds. So if you have some allergies, treat yourself on a nice woolen duvet or blanket!
Sheepskin prevents (and even heals) wounds caused by bedsores (decubitus).
Wool grease (lanoline) is great for your skin. In hand cream it heals your dry hands and softens them.
With many cold related illness (like stiffness, throat ache, ear ache and bronchitis), wool seems to encourage the self healing mechanism of our body. Raw sheepwool, right from the sheep and still greasy, seems to do the best job in this.

Wool as insulator

So now it is only a small step to use wool as insulation for your house. It doesn’t burn (and even kills flames), it “breathes” and regulates temperature.
And the best part: farmers are happy to give you their wool because they have so much of it every year again!
LINKS to sites about wool:

De natuurlijke eigenschappen van wol


In my next blog I will write about what you can do with wool and how you do it. Spinning, carding, felting…

At Bogata Suma I give wool workshops a few times a year, where you can get enthousiastic yourself.


A forest garden & self sufficiency

When you want to have a (food) self sufficient life, an edible forest garden can be a great “tool” in achieving this. It is easy to go to a supermarket for your food, and gardening for food is regarded as the hard way. Maintaining a food forest is something in the middle. A relatively easy (and cheap!) way to get lots of vitamins!

Having a vegetable garden is for most people* a battle against weeds, slugs and bugs.
(* people that haven’t heard of permaculture, mulching, no-dig, raised beds and companion planting)
They break their back in fall (digging) and spring (weeding), and in summer they break their back on picking their harvest.

If you have ever had a walk in a forest, you know that there is usually not much human labour involved to keep everything going. A forest is an eco system that maintains itself. No backs involved.

So what is a forest garden (or food forest)?

The layers in a forest garden
The layers in a forest garden. Click for a larger version!

A forest garden is a woodland with edibles. Like a woodland it is built up in layers that are beneficial to each other. The highest trees (canopies) give shade for the shrubs under it. The vines use the bigger shrubs or smaller trees to climb in. The herbs attract bees that pollinate the fruit trees. The ground covering keeps the soil relatively cool and moist in summer.

Our food forest (20×30 metres, inland Croatia) has a canopy of wild cherry trees and mullberry, with small apple trees under it. In between you can find hazelnut shrubs, elderberry shrubs and wild roses. Chards, marigolds and several herbs are growing below them. The soil is covered with winter purslane and lambs lettuce (winter, spring), wild strawberries (spring, summer), and tym (summer, fall). Around the forest garden we have a branches wall with raspberries and blackberries climbing over it, and gooseberries reinforcing the hedge.

Besides fruits, there are also other usefull things growing in our food forest. In general, a forest garden can grow the 7 F’s: Food Fuel Fiber Fodder Fertilizer Farmaceuticals Fun.

A forest garden uses the wisdom of natural woodland. When set up properly, it is a harmonious ecosystem that functions long term, low maintenance. Your biggest worry will be how to collect the harvest in time!

Design of our forest garden

Forest garden design
The first design of our forest garden

Our first forest garden design was made with too much enthousiasm. On a 20×30 metres area we planned (not planted; only planned) 160 trees, shrubs and plants! But by the time the season was right for planting, we realized that it was a bit too much.

So we started simple. With lots of ground covering plants that were already growing on our terrain, like thym, wild strawberries, winter purslane/claytonia, lambs lettuce and mint. The trees (cherry, chestnut, mullberry) were already there, except a dwarf apple tree that we planted. In between the trees we planted hazelnut and elder, of which we had many babies growing in our nursery. On the edges (next to the branches walls) we planted the baby raspberries and blackberries, and some gooseberries we propagated.

Learning from nature

Now it is time to monitor how everything grows, how all trees and shrubs are doing together, and which spots need attention or different solutions. We’re making notes for next year and I already noted that I’m glad we didn’t stick to our initial plan!

The crowded first design would probably have worked for a year or 2 when the shrubs were still small. But when they grow bigger, they still need light and air.
It would also have been a birds walhalla with all the berry shrubs. And since our food forest is situated on a 2 minutes walk from our house, the birds would probably have taken over.

The food forest in our self sufficiency

Some people live a few minutes away from a supermarket; we live a few minutes away from our (starting) forest garden.
When I go shopping I bring a bag; when I visit our forest garden I bring a bucket. And usually I come home with many surprises! A bunch of peppermint with a small bucket of wild strawberries, a bucket of apples with marigold flowerheads (nice on salads and the rabbits love them).

At the moment our forest garden is still in baby phase, but the raspberries and blackberries are already producing many jars of jam. We can harvest mint enough for a year’s supply of tea, enough lambs lettuce and claytonia for our late winter/early spring salads and we harvest many sweet chestnuts in fall.

I’m looking forward to our food forest growing into maturity!

Forest garden design workshop

In the weekend of 16-17 May 2015 we’ll host a forest garden design workshop at Bogata Suma.
Mail or call +385 95 5555 677 if you have questions or want to make a reservation!

forest garden workshop
Forest garden workshop at Bogata Suma, 16+17 May 2015