"Diversity isn't involved so much with the number of elements in a system as it is with the number of functional connections between these elements. Diversity is not the number of things, but the number of ways in which things work."
"What are the strategies by which we don't need agriculture? Agriculture is a destructive system. Well, we need a lot more gardeners. Gardeners are the most productive, most hands-on sort of agriculturists ‘
The Ultimate Living Centre is in the process of being developed as a place of connection, between Man and Nature - a place where people from all walks of life can feel, smell, and interact with soil and plants that are so essential for healthy living; a place where it is shown that roof tops, shack yards and walls, discarded packaging, and even poles can become the host to fascinating ecosystems; a place where worms produce the very medium that allows the food forests to grow.
The program is created in a series of disused pig sties, each measuring 4m x 5m, which is about the size of an average informal settlement plot. Different huts are being built, to show alternatives to corrugated iron, and are then surrounded with different ways of producing food within this confined area. The huts themselves are all based on using different available material at the same cost as an average corrugated iron hut, but resulting in a far more comfortable and dignified living environment.
The fact that the project is being created on a concrete base, makes it a perfect example of what can happen on city rooftops, existing cemented yards, abandoned industrial sites and anywhere else where the natural ground is covered.
Locals and volunteers from all over the world are encouraged (and have started) to come and enjoy the interaction and sense of giving, the sharing of cultures, the passion for nature, and learning how to produce their own food anywhere. In doing so they come to realize the essential elements of sustainability and how many forms of “waste” should rather be looked at as undiscovered assets.
Although Home should be the initial place of learning, this is unfortunately not always the case in some modern cramped communities, so we hope, that for some, by experiencing the Ultimate Living Centre, we are able to fill some of this gap.
The aim of The Ultimate Living Centre is to increase awareness of how Man can live in harmony with Nature, not only in rural areas but in cities as well.
This is done by exposing children and adults to the following:
- Worm farming – worms are Nature’s composters. Their castings contain ten times the nutrients than what they consume. The worm tea, when sprayed on plants makes a fantastic foliage feed as well as an insect repellant. The microorganisms in the castings and the tea are what boost the plant’s growth and immune system.
- Mushroom growing – Logs from alien timber such a gum trees, is kept for two weeks until its own fungi repellent becomes dormant. Holes are then drilled into the log, where a wooden plug is inserted, which has been impregnated with Shitake Mushroom spawn, the hole is then covered with wax. It is then just a matter of time before the log will produce a healthy crop of mushrooms, full of minerals and vitamins. The plugs and logs can be ordered through the Ultimate Living Centre.
- Aquaponics – This is a method of growing plants without soil. The plant is floated on top of the water, in containers, with the roots hanging in the water. Fish are kept in the water and it is their excrement which supplies the nutrients for the plants.
- Square foot gardening - very simply put, Square Foot Gardening (SFG) is growing vegetables and fruits for the table even with the smallest of gardens. The system adapts easily to all levels of experience, physical ability, and geographical location. You can now grow all you want and need in about 20% of the space of a conventional vegetable garden. Saving time, water, and energy. As the plants are grown in containers, it allows food production anywhere. The mix of plants chosen, allows food to be produced all year round.
- Roof and vertical wall gardening- not everyone has the advantage of having a garden, this however should not deter them from growing their own food. Roofs and walls make perfect areas to grow vegetables in containers, old pallets, discarded bottles or anything that can hold soil or other growing mediums.
- How to make mini greenhouses – old shower doors, reclaimed windows, or see through plastic, are all used to make mini greenhouses, allowing most vegetables to be grown all year round.
- Productive use of alien plants - the Government Working for Water project addresses alien vegetation in riparian zones, resulting in the problem of what to do with the extracted timber. At The Ultimate Living Centre we show ways to make use of it. This includes building log cabins, manufacturing furniture, coffins and grow-bins, composting and mushroom farming.
- Recycling – various forms of recycling are experimented with and displayed at the centre.
- Composting techniques – various forms of hot and cold composting are on display, and form part of the program taught to children and the public. This has become part of the regular talks and lectures which began in September
- Different affordable building techniques – experimentation is taking place to find new and innovative building methods that are affordable, comfortable and have architectural and engineering integrity.
As further resources become available, additional displays and educational material will be added.
- Alternative energies – it is envisaged that the ULC will become a one-stop, alternative energy hub, where products from a variety of alternative energy companies will be on display and working. This will allow the public and first time home builders to compare products in working conditions.
- Water recycling – over the next couple of months, various methods of water recycling will be added to the displays
The Ultimate Living Center is also home to the nursery which produces and stores thousands of food bearing trees and vegetables which are distributed free to those in need of food security. (See article on The Peoples Food Forest)
The ULC offers an interactive education program through which eco education is achieved through interaction and physical activities. This has already been visited by hundreds of children, bussed in from the surrounding schools.
The Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, Simonsberg Conservancy, Eco Schools, Dream SA, Landcare, many local and international volunteers and the owners of Delvera Agri Village work together to achieve a very unique program, which does not only address the real problems of food security, but has created a network of likeminded people who have a common goal.
In this process, many entrepreneurs who needed mentoring, exposure and networks to get off the ground , have become part of the ‘ Family’ and are achieving results beyond their expectations.
Twitter hashtag: #ultimateliving