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Top 10… self-sustainability courses and workshops

Tom Antebi

13th May, 2011

Be it chicken keeping, foraging or organic gardening, if it's the good life you want, there’s a course out there for you. Tom Antebi rounds up some of the best

As the cost of living spirals, the need for self-produced and sustainable amenities is becoming increasingly clear. But is isn’t just economics that has led to an upsurge in people doing it for themselves; it’s a lifestyle choice as well, and one that more and more are opting into. The trend for DIY food production has led to an explosion in self-sustainability guide books too. In their book Practical Guide to Self-Sufficiency: The Complete Guide to Sustainable Living, brothers Dick and James Strawbridge share tips on making DIY living work. For them self-sufficiency is a way of life and means making use of local natural resources in a sustainable way.

And the Strawbridges’ aren’t alone in offering advice to would-be DIY-ers. A host of self-sustainability courses and projects aimed at getting people started have sprung up, including Capital Growth - a London-based project that provides funding and expertise to urban farms.  Another is the Transition Towns, a network of towns, cities and urban areas shifting away from the carbon-intensive economy. Others work on a smaller scale offering short courses on topics such as starting a small holding, foraging and wood work. So which are the pick of the bunch? Here are some of the best.

Wild Man wild food foraging
When: Continuous
Where: Locations vary
Tell me more: With professional forager Fergus Drennan on hand to show you what’s tasty and what’s not, the one-day course shows you how to find wild food and what to do with it once you’ve found it.  Sample dishes include pan-fried squirrel, nettle and wild-garlic soup and Bacchian wild bark wine.
For: Foodies, enthusiastic cooks and nature lovers
Cost: £150 including two three-course foraged meals, drinks and pickle to take home.
For more information go to www.wildmanwildfood.com

Chicken keeping
When: Continuous
Where: Daylesford Farm, Gloucestershire
Tell me more: Run by Daylesford Organic, the chicken keeping course covers everything you need to know about hen husbandry, from what breed to choose to where to put the run. Feeding tips and advice on gardening with hens is also included.  
For: Anyone who wants pets that are useful as well as entertaining
Cost: £30 including a complimentary box of eggs
For more information go to www.daylesfordorganic.co.uk

Permaculture introductory weekend
When: 10th-12th June
Where: Sustainability Centre, East Meon, Hampshire
Tell me more: This course is designed to give participants a basic knowledge of permaculture – a form of sustainable land use design. Basic skills and the permaculture philosophy are covered through lectures and demonstrations, giving you the foundation you need to incorporate permaculture techniques into your garden.  
For: Gardeners looking for something different
Cost: £125 including lunch
For more information, go to www.designedvisions.com

Eco refurbishment
When: 18th-22nd July
Where: The Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales
Tell me more: A practical course that aims to equip participants with an understanding of how to make your home a more environmentally friendly place. The course covers how to make green improvements and divulges the practical hints and tips that can make a big difference to your carbon footprint.
For: Anyone interested in sustainable living
Cost: £600 including accommodation
For more information, go to www.cat.org.uk

Cob building
When: 26th – 28th August
Where: Redfield Community, Buckinghamshire
Tell me more: If you’ve ever wanted your own clay oven but can’t quite stretch to the price, then this course is for you. Using a mixture of theory, demonstrations and practical work, the course aims to teach participants how to make their own ‘cob’ using soil and clay, and how to turn it into a useful structure such as a clay oven. A residential course, the price includes all meals and accommodation.
For: Creative types
Cost: From £150
For more information, go to visit www.lowimpact.org

Rustic furniture making
Where: Greenwood Days Ferrers Centre, Leicestershire
When: 11th-12th June
Tell me more: A traditional greenwood craft, the rustic furniture making course shows you how to design and make a garden chair using green willow. The course is led by Spencer Jenkins, a craftsman with more than 10 years experience of using greenwood to create furniture, baskets and sculptures.
For: Ikea refugees and craftsmen-in-the-making
Cost: £170 including materials
For more information, go to www.greenwood-days.co.uk

The basic loaf
Where: Home Farm House, Lincolnshire
When: 2nd June
Tell me more: Get a grip on the basics of bread making, which surprising though it may be, isn't as difficult as it looks. Whether it's simple sour dough or intricate fruit loaves you want, the course gives you all the skills you need to make fresh, homemade bread a daily pleasure.
For: Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall wannabes
Cost: £85
To find out more, go to www.wickedstepmothersworld.co.uk

John Seymour School for Self-Sufficiency
Where: Bordeaux, France
When: Summer 2011
Tell me more: 40 miles from Bordeaux is a little organic smallholding run by the John Seymour School of Self-Sufficiency. Students stay on site during the five-day course, which includes bread making, fruit preserving and brewing. Visits to local markets, including dinner in Monségur, are included.
For: Anyone looking for a lifestyle overhaul
Cost: 750 euros
For more information, go to www.self-sufficiency.net

Cheese making
Where: Abbey Home Farm, Gloucestershire
When: Continuous
Tell me more: Held in the creamery, the one-day course shows you how to make Abbey Home Farm’s award winning ‘Dancy’s Fancy’ soft cheese. Discussions on butter and yoghurt making are also on the menu, as is a light organic lunch.
For: Everyone
Cost: £85 including lunch and some cheese
For more info, go to www.theorganicfarmshop.co.uk

Learn to make willow wreaths and decorations
When: 2nd December
Where: Home Farm, Somerby, Leicestershire
Tell me more: Perfect for a Christmas that doesn’t include plastic baubles and tinsel, the course, led by environmental artist, Alison Walling, gives you a grounding in the craft of willow work. The workshop has a festive theme, with participants being taught how to turn dead wood into fabulous decorations.
For: Arty types
Cost: £85 including materials and lunch
For more information go to www.wickedstepmothersworld.co.uk

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