Children don’t do what I did in my twenties with Clare.  Do not hitch hike to France and find yourselves in an isolated house with a hoard of hard drinking male truck drivers. Do not.  We survived unharmed and emerged into the daylight wiser and saved by two nice guys who had stopped the rattling, bashing and lewd jeers and cat calls at our frightened door.

So arriving in the South of France safely felt like a major gift and what followed was heaven.  We met a friend of mine and his friend who was converting an old farm house with land into a permaculture center.  I didn’t know what permaculture was.

The building had only one room with a roof on and this housed a huge wooden table with a make shift kitchen and shelves stacked with enormous tubs of tahini and nuts.  We camped in the woods by night and used a compost toilet for the first time in my life.  By day we worked the old vines along side a pig who would root, turn and compost the soil as we worked.

The only source of water was an old fashioned pump so when the men were not around, Clare and I would take it in turns to work the pump while the other one washed. So picture the scene, a beautiful sunny day, in a French paradise, with Clare pumping the water as I washed naked at just the point when I group of horse riders passed by, and without batting an eye, just saluted and shouted ‘bonjour’ before carry on their way.

By night we cooked the vegetables we were growing, ate the bread collected on foot from the boulangerie and drank the wine and told stories around the fire pit outside.

We peeled plumbs around a huge table with local women under the shade of trees and plunged into the cool water in a wooden barrel after my first home crafted sweat in a tippee.

It felt as magical as a dream.

I don’t really remember how we got home, but it was safely and life carried on.  We both lived in a community which was environmentally conscious, but I moved out and she moved on and we all built careers and had children.

But permaculture has stayed in my awareness, albeit from afar and during my March lockdown, when I was hanging around under trees again and swimming in my river, I got in touch with Steve Jones who is the local guy who runs courses.  He’s been on my radar for years, but the time has never felt right. Now it does.

I’ll leave Steve to explain permaculture to youl, but I will be joining his two week course this year because it is the sensible, sustainable, pragmatic thing to do.  A system which works with nature, for nature for the benefit of all can not be ignored.

Join us as Steve Jones takes on his journey from a small farm, through an economics degree to Africa where he found permaculture which has changed his life and thousands of lives globally.

You can find out more about Sector 39 here:

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