It takes an eco village: raising a free range family

It takes an eco village: raising a free range family
ulie Lockett with her husband Joe Fitzmaurice. The pair own and run Riot Rye bakery and bread school in Cloughjordan eco-village. Eco-villager Julie Lockett is doing everything she can for the planet Picture credits : Eoin Campbell.

Moving to Cloughjordan eco-village was my idea. I’d done a dance project in Scotland’s Findhorn Foundation community in 2004 and it opened my eyes to another way of living.

I was 34 then and trying to have kids. For my husband Joe and I, eco-village living offered a different way of life, one that made sense, one in which kids could free-range happily. So we joined the Cloughjordan eco-village project and built a house here.

I love being part of a sustainable community. We grow lots of our own veg and eat nutritiously.

The shop in our village sells the healthiest food.

Eco-village living changed me. When we first moved, neighbours asked if they could use our car two days a week for work. We considered insurance and other implications and said ‘no’.

These days we share a car with two other households. Sharing resources is our way of life now.

When he was in his early 20s, Joe worked in oil and gas. He told me nothing grew on the seafloor within a three or four-kilometre radius of oil rigs because of pollution. It was important to him that we didn’t use fossil fuels when we set up our bakery Riot Rye in the ecovillage. So when building the bakery, Joe and a friend installed wood-fired ovens.

At home, we don’t have a boiler. There’s a district heating system in Cloughjordan so we get hot water piped into our house and that is used to heat our radiators and provide hot water. So rather than every house having its own boiler, we use a communal one.

Instead of using walls and fences to divide houses, we plant trees and mixed hedges. We have oak and dog-rose, beech and spindle. The catkins are on the hazels right now. We love to watch the birds feeding on the holly berries.

So far, 17,000 trees have been planted in our village. I think we have 1,700 apple trees in all.

Until recently, my son would bring in apples on a Sunday night, chop and stew them to add to porridge over the coming days.

Our kids were three and five when we moved here. They’re 12 and 14 now. Their life is very different to the one I had growing up. I used to watch loads of TV and my mother didn’t really enjoy cooking.

My kids didn’t have a terrestrial TV growing up. It’s only now that they’re older that they might watch Netflix.

We run a bread-club in Cloughjordan. Villagers get their bread delivered to their door. From the age of four and six, our kids used to deliver bread door-to-door, pulling a little cart around on four wheels.

Sharing is a way of life for the younger kids in our village. We all use the library a lot. Families swap what’s been outgrown all the time. All the village kids are well used to getting someone else’s bike, wellies, or hand-me-down clothes to wear. It changes as they get older and go to secondary school. Then they tend to get into sports brands and we let our kids do that. It’s a way for them to express themselves.

Another thing we learned from living sustainably is that buying reconditioned technology makes sense. We buy as little new technology as possible.

The planet is the central reason why I live my life the way I do, in a community where resources are shared. We’re members of a local community farm. We know the farmers who grow our food and the people who raise hens and deliver our eggs.

There’s no packaging around the vegetables grown in the village’s community-supported agricultural farm. We pay a monthly standing order then collect the vegetables we need at the central collection point. We only eat in-season, organic vegetables, which taste amazing.

As parents, it’s important for Joe and I to make sure our kids are emotionally and mentally resilient so they can withstand the unpredictability and shocks that life can bring. That goal is often discussed in our village.

When heavy snow meant many bread shelves were bare across Ireland, it was different in our village. Even in deep snow, we managed with the help of three neighbours, to drag a cartload of bread to the local shop.

Community resilience is important. It’s what happens when a community builds trust and when everyone begins to depend on one another. We help one another out. We support local business. When gifts are needed, we buy crafts and books in the village. We borrow from one another and mind one other’s kids. If somebody needs transport, somebody else helps out. As a community, this makes us stronger in the face of unpredictability.

I feel really sad about climate change. But I’m choosing to channel my energy into community living, and to helping to generate a local economy and a sense of community.

Our bakery uses locally-sourced energy. We bake for local people. Because I’m so active in community life, I feel really empowered. That stops me from feeling down about climate change, as does knowing I’m doing everything I possibly can for the planet.

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