Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category

Very good friends of mine … Miriam and Jimmy … live just outside of Ballinamore and have been running some very successful build your own wind turbine workshops in Ballinamore.

The workshops attracted people from all over Ireland … for 3 days a week over 3 weeks.

Some people stayed in Hamills Guesthouse … and everyone ate meals at Smyths and Priors.

Money coming in and staying in our local economy … well done.

Well … they are running a week long workshop in Gort in early September.

And … if you can’t get to Gort … they are running a workshop in Ballinamore in October. Places limited to 10 people and there are only 5 places left.

If you’ve ever thought about developing your own energy source then seriously think about doing this workshop … it’s top of the range and very very practical.

Check out their site … there is a video of their interview on a national television programme – Nationwide.

Here’s more detail.

This is a hands-on, week long, workshop which will teach you how to build your own wind turbine right from the very basic materials.

This workshop is unique in Ireland because the wind turbine designer Hugh Piggott will be the main tutor.

€750 for full accommodation, €650 if camping
Start Time:
Monday, September 7, 2009 at 9:00am
End Time:
Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 6:00pm
Crann Óg
Gort, Ireland



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My long standing readers know that our lovely recession has had an effect on us all … positive and not so positive.

For me?

My contract work ( and therefore my income) had reduced by over 50%

I see that as both a challenge and an opportunity.

In the last year I have been Money Poor and Time Wealthy … and I’ve tried things I never had the time to do before:

  • developed Sunny Funny Garden
  • gone on the Organic Food Growing Course
  • wrote heaps more on this blog
  • promoted business and activities in Ballinamore on the blog
  • developed SKIL2
  • gave away my Life Dreaming workbook for free
  • began developing a Life Dreaming course and site

And … I’ve had to get creative about the ways I get things … with very little money.


I’ve given my time free to some businesses (helping in the Forge; writing about businesses; developing small business web sites) … and they gave me coal and walking boots and discounts and other things … all very welcome exchanges.

I’m working on rebuilding my cash flow … and in time … SKIL 2 and Life Dreaming will make money.

Barter is the new black … I keep asking people and finding ways to exchange something for something … my time … my skills … for their products or services.

And other people are doing the same.

I’ve made quite a few new friends through this blog and many of them have dreams that cost time and money.

I’m all for supporting each other.


So … I want to introduce you to Kimme and her blog … Irish Cottage Dreams.

Kimme and her husband have a dream of owning an irish cottage somewhere around Ballinamore … I told you it’s a great place that attracts great people.

She is doing all sorts of things (all legal!) to gather the deposit for a mortgage. She has car boot sales and lives well within her means.

She is also very crafty … in the  nicest possible way.

I want to showcase some of the things she makes.

They’re all for sale.

And here’s the really really interesting thing.

Kimme understands that we all are feeling the pinch so here’s what she’s offered.

You set what you think is a fair price for something … and she’ll send it to you (adding package and post of course).


Here are her lovely hand made delights … I love the tea cosies.

made from Irish wool … look like they could hold a camera, mobile or an ipod … lovely

I love the tea cosies … made from acrylic wool so they are easy to wash off tea spills

Kimme also designs packs of cards

Kimme makes these with her  90 year old grandmother … she sells them in packs of 6 (the cards … not the grandmothers!)

Pam gave me one and they are  delightful … real lace.

The card packs do have a price –

Price: £3.75 GBP 5.23 USD 4.05 EUR – that’s for 6.

Another blogger who has become a friend is Pam … at White O’Morn Cottage blog.

Pam has kindly given me a loan of her cottage for 4 days so I can have a quiet retreat.

And not only does Pam have a blog … she also has 2 other sites that sell cottage crafts (Such Pretty Old Things)

and vintage clothes, jewellery & other lovely goodies – Vintage Retro Lingerie

So … if I hadn’t started blogging … and if my cash flow hadn’t dried up … I never would have thought of bartering.

There’s always some sun shining near the pile of dung.


What would you barter?



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Fire going … had my roast breakfast (I bake the sausages, garlic and tomato and poach the eggs) … reading the papers … many cups of tea.

Coco is either chasing a ball around the lounge or sitting next to me.



I always read the paper with a pen and scissors next to me … to note and cut out interesting things.

So far 2 things have caught my eye

Really really low fares to Singapore and Australia until the end of June … as low as 630 euro return … and Malaysian Airlines is doing some crazy fare (you have a couple of stops along the way) to Singapore for less than 500 euro.

Need to attract some funds as I want to go to Singapore in the next 2 months to work with Marc on the design of SKIL2 and Life Dreaming.

The second thing that interested me a great deal?

A DIY paper log maker sold by an Irish company – Ecostore.ie

You make paper logs and they burn for up to 3 hours.

Here’s the How To instructions from their site.

I don’t know about you dear reader … but my coal bill this winter was beyond funny (as high as 30 euro a week when it was really cold) … particularly when you don’t have a lot of cash.

Many thanks to friends who gave me bags of coal for Xmas … they made my fire burn well during the very cold winter.

I don’t want to spend that kind of money again so the whole idea of making my own fuel looks like something I’d love to try.

It also reuses paper … and even after we use the paper to make the no dig beds for the Sunny Funny Garden … I’ll have heaps left over … and I do love my weekend papers.

So … for the cost of papers I’d already be buying (and you can also use any junk mail or a4 paper … jeez … I have piles of old work files I could use … brilliant) … and some time in the sun in summer … I can get a pile of free fuel.

And … Gabriel said I could chop some logs on his land … and wood ash is much loved by tomatoes.

A little forward planning and I could have really low fuel bills this winter …

What’s not to like?

The DIY paper log maker costs 34.99 euro and if you mention the Sunday Times Home section … you’ll get free Irish delivery.

And there’s more … I liked on their site that they have a section where you can haggle the price with them … and they have a lot of other great energy and sustainable products.

I also like their sectioned bin for recycling – makes good sense and looks like it holds a bit of stuff. I currently have different bags all around the kitchen and it looks a bit messy.

I could literally pick up the food waste stuff and put it in the compost bin in the Sunny Funny Garden.

I’m off back to my papers … I’ll add anything else of interest I find …

…. back again … still in the Homes section of the paper.

I have been collecting teapots … teacups … cake trays … for about 5 or 6 years.

I enjoy the mix of design + function.

The mag had a very quirky cake tray ( Blaue Blume) and a lovely teapot and cup by Ikuko Twamato … both very sculptural and full of sensual texture … you want to stroke them … and then eat cake and sip violet scented tea.


love this piece … and if they were laden with Sharon Sweeneys cupcakes & chocolates … heaven


so textural

I still love the teapot I bought years and years ago from a sculptor friend … it’s wrapped porcelain and I do drink tea from it now and again.


And I love these old World War 2 posters … kind of apropos for now.

I love doing the Sunny Funny Garden and learning to grow organic food at Rossinver Organic Centre.

Here’s the first Sunny Funny Garden post from may 2008.

One day I’d love to see land set aside in Ballinamore for allotments and community gardens … it would be practical and a potential visitor attraction.


Except I’d want Peace Gardens for Victory.

I’m off back to my papers … wonder what else will catch my eye?

Well well … this is interesting …

According to the article on community gardens

Trevor Sargent (minister for food in Ireland) has launched his Get Ireland Growing campaign … he said … it’s worth pointing out that councils are obliged to provide growing space for those who want them under the 1926 Allotments Act (The Sunday Times. 29.03.09. p22. home mag)

Cool … so … when I learn more this year I can see who else in town might be interested in starting local community gardens … and then contact the local authority and our local councillors for land.

I’ve gone awandering and found some good Irish sites … the Green Party have started a growing food site called Get Growing … and I’ve registered for updates and information.

I’ve also just written a story about the Sunny Funny Garden for their site.

There is also a newly formed community gardens network in Ireland and a great organisation and site called Dublin Food Growing with lots of info on … yup … food growing.

And just in case someone is reading who has a food growing project in their community in Ireland … and is looking for funding … check this outHealthy Food For All are funding community food projects over a period of 3 years.

ok … that’s taken a couple of hours of research and writing … all fun … and … I’m going back to my papers.

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It’s a gorgeous Friday here in Ballinamore.

After the cold and wind (gale force stuff) of yesterday we now have a lovely sunfilled day.


William popped in to put up the coat hanging piece that he made and gave me … as you can see … there’s no room for coats.


We sat for a while over a cuppa and chatted about living simply & happily and simple/small house design … our dreams for building our own homes.


I love living in my cottage … and am blessed with the best neighbour Mags … and now new neighbour William … and still miss my old neighbours Lynda and Derek.

Living in town now for 29 months has meant that I got to know people and feel part of the community.

This blog has really made me feel a part of Ballinamore … I write and photograph … and then people ask me to cover stuff … off to the art exhibition opening tonight.

I was reading some of my older blog posts and came across this one written in Feb 2007 … just over 2 years ago … and the blog was only a month old.

It’s powerful stuff and I felt like another reader … rather than the writer.

Life Dreaming has formed a core part of how I live and dream and plan my life … for nearly 30 years now.

When I wrote the Feb 2007 post … I was about to run a Life Dreaming session in Dublin.

It never happened for a range of reasons … but the Life Dreaming workbook got written and designed … and I put Life Dreaming on the back burner until a month or so ago … when I gave the Life Dreaming workbook away for free (download your copy from the top of this blog).

What I’m trying to say is that I hold to a number of core dreams (develop Life Dreaming with my brother Marc … build my own home … build SKIL2 … blah blah) … the timeline just shifts to meet changing circumstances and opportunities … it’s about being flexible and resilient.

So … here is an excerpt of that post … Feb 2007 … how time flies.

Life Dreaming from the Frontline


If life throws so many unexpected things at us – what’s the point in dreaming?

Very good question.

Like most people, I’ve had my share of life’s knocks.

How I’ve reacted and dealt with them has formed the woman I am today.

Have you ever looked back on your life and seen those events and moments that ended up being signposts for learning and major decisions?

That moment where … if you’d made a different choice … your life would have taken a very different path?

One moment for me happened when I was 21 or 22.

The man I had been living with went to Sydney from Perth to start a new job and I was to follow a few weeks later.

One morning I opened a letter from him that said he didn’t want me to follow him to Sydney.

That’s the last I ever heard from him (and he had cleaned out our bank account and taken everything we owned with him – including all my books – big bummer).

When I finished reading the letter I lost it for a few minutes and then realised that I had – no money, no job, no place to live and hadn’t finished my degree (oh yeh, and the man I thought loved me had disappeared into the mist) – pretty much bottomed out.

That’s scarey – really scarey.

It all felt way too big to deal with – just too hard. Why me?

I remember so vividly – a question rose from inside me – what do you want to do ?

Stay down and find it just too hard – or – get up and take some control of your life?

From that moment on I vowed that I’d always find a way to get off the floor – find ways to live the life I wanted and not the life other people might want for me – not to just float along.

I found a strength and determination that I had never really tested. I drew on the deep love and support of my family and friends; finished my degree; and got on with living.

Over the years (more than 25) I’ve done a lot of work with communities and organisations in West Australia & Ireland.

I’ve worked with them to reflect and plan their futures – to define their purpose, values and needs – and translate them into real and enduring actions.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to work with thousands of people on 2 continents.

I get to see passion, purpose and power in action – in places and with people that society has given up on.

Life Dreaming first happened as a result of a woman nagging me to do them. I was working with communities and she wanted me to translate the tools I had developed into a series of workshops for women.

I’ve never had a problem saying No – and that’s what I did.

She obviously never took No for an answer – so a small battle of wills happened over a few months.

Obviously this woman had been sent by a persistent universe because one day I said Yes.

We had the first Life Dreaming in her home in 1992.

If you read my Home Sweet Home blog in Jan (07) or clicked the lizbiz button at the top of the page – you’d see how my values inform everything I do.

For Life Dreaming workshops I wanted to create spaces of beauty and relaxation where women could reflect, laugh, plan and make some choices about their next steps – about making dreams a reality and believing they could do it.

Will all my dreams come true?

Sorry Judy, you’re back in Kansas.

Life Dreamings paradox is that in choosing to have some influence over the choices you make about your life – you also can develop a talent for attracting and thriving on the unexpected.

At the core is a clarity about what drives you and what you value – and that forms the lodestone that helps you make decisions amongst a plethora (or dearth) of options.

So, if life throws us so many unexpected things – what is the point in dreaming?

For me, life without the power to dream – and achieve some of the dreams – is a life with no power, passion, purpose, meaning or celebration.

As this is the only life I remember, I want it to be full of fun, beauty, generosity, and sheer delight – and I want to have a part in shaping it.

It’s that simple -and yeh, that complex.

Reading that post again just reaffirmed why I do what I do.


Writing this blog over the last 2 1/2 years has been so much fun … and it helps me think through and clarify ideas that would only wander around in my head.

And all you wonderful readers … and my delightful commentators … make me want to write … about things that are important to me … and all the great stuff that happens here in Ballinamore.

Thanks for reading.



p.s And here’s Coco contemplating the universe … or not …




It’s been a busy and happy day dear reader

I had a lovely lunch in Smyths with Dee … love their vege soup.

Then spent 3 hours working over in Eamonn and Noleens garden centre. I want to get as much hands on experience as I can in gardening and plants. I had a great time sorting all the plants … it delights the designer in me.

Apart from the last 5 minutes (when it bucketed down with rain) I had a great time in the sunshine.

Came home and spent the last 3 hours updating a series of posts I did in 2007 on sustainable building and living.

You can read all about it on the page at the top of this blog.

I spent a while today finding and uploading (and referencing) some good photos … and added the sites from this weeks Simplicity post … and a few more I found in my ramblings this afternoon.

I’m off for a shower now and am out to the opening of a solo art exhibition down the street … will have photos tomorrow.

I’m missing the big GAA dinner dance tonight but have a photo spy there who will send me some photos.

Have a lovely weekend.



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Nice word.

Harder to define and do.

Simplicity can mean many things to many people.

I’m fascinated by complexity + chaos + patterns … and how I can simplify them to communicate with others.

Social media appears complex and chaotic … and it can be.

Information Technology is complex.

Organisational development is complex.

Learning & Performance is complex.

Community development is complex.

Research & evaluation is complex.

Good writing is complex.

Communicating and planning with groups of people is complex.

Deciding what’s important in your life right now is complex.

[ you’re welcome to download my free Life Dreaming workbook … it has some useful questions].

And … all these things have been a part of my work and life.

That’s when the art of simplicity is needed … making the complex appear accessible and understandable.

I’ve been doing that (making the complex a bit more comprehensible) with clients for over 25 years  … and loving it.

I adore learning something new … being scared by the (seemingly) huge amount of information … and step by step … getting a handle on the key concepts and skills.

And then … sharing it with people.

I’m fascinated and interested in many things … a list waaaaay to long to put here.

And I love seeing how one thing I love might affect another thing I love.

Take the Citroen 2cv (please please send me one for my birthday).


I have been taking my toy 2cv to meetings about my SKIL2 design … my mantra is … beauty + practicality + affordability … like the 2cv … designed to an essential core.

When I’m designing the SKIL2 space I constantly ask myself … is this essential to the core purpose? I’m building a kind of 2CV … not a bmw.

Over the last few years I have been interested in alternative building methods (cob particularly) and building my own home one day.

I’ve copied a pile of sites and books to a Sustainable Building & Living Page at the top of this blog.

I have a dream of creating a few really small  retreats … one for me … and a couple for friends & selected strangers who need some space and peace.

I’m hoping Mags will be on the land next door with the animal rescue retreat.


Coco on the day Mags found her abandoned


Coco & Indi cat … now in Athens Georgia with Derek & Lynda


Boysie and Patsy cat


John Joe … he’s a great guy … the zen dog of the pack

My retreat people can visit her animals and give them good homes … fair exchange.

I’ve always loved design and how space can be utilised.

And as I have very little money and a mortgage is out of the question … small, sustainable and simple make a lot of sense.

I did some research a while ago on Small House Design.

There are a whole bunch of people designing, building and living in small houses … really small spaces … often for economic reasons … sometimes for environmental ones.

Here are a few interesting sites/blogs:

In previous generations many Irish families lived in small cottages.

During the Boom … we saw huge huge places being built … some are beautiful while others are a postule on the landscape … and many of them are empty.

When I do design doodles for the home I want to build … I try and keep it as small and simple as possible … almost one open living space that can be ‘separated’ by plants, moving screens & sheer falls of material.

I showed the drawings to my brother Marc and he made my shower/wash room a little bigger by adding a private outside courtyard … he said that simple was fine but I was allowed to have some space!

Simplicity to me is a kind of paring back to your life essentials … whatever they may be.

Simplicity to me means living life to my core values ... being as authentic as I can … taking time to appreciate what I have and not be too bothered about what I don’t have.

Simplicity is not easy.

Having very little money has been useful to me in defining elements of simplicity in my life – food, fuel, shelter, broadband, champagne.

But it’s not about money.

With or without money … there are things that are essential to my life … the values I live by … the love I feel for my family and friends … the deep affection I feel for the community and town I now live in … always learning and taking risks … having a chat and a laugh with people …

Simplicity is a complex thing.

As I read back on this post I realised that the core of simplicity to me is being able to answer this question

What is essential to my life?

Good question.

I think I’ll just ponder on it for a few days.



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Here are a few interesting vids I’ve watched over the last day or so.

Crisis of Credit short (I think 8 minutes) animated video … made the whole mess seem a bit more understandable … nice vid … bad investors and bankers … silly us … enough said about that.


A TED talk by a man who literally rebuilt an ecosystem in one of the deadest areas in Borneo … initially to home orangutans … and eventually it has provided a whole area where people and villages have homes, food, education & income … and so do the orangutans.

The video had me in tears … there is always hope … there is always a solution … and this video shows how … amazing and inspiring.


The TED site has heaps of videos of their inspirational speakers on topics as diverse as education … creativity … space … life … science … art … technology. All are no longer than 20 minutes.

At least once a week I watch a video … it inspires me … gives me hope … and just entertains.

Speaking of vids … Niall and I had a script meeting last night to bring some kind of order to the whole Liz Biz TV fun.

I had written a script on the way home from Dublin on Tuesday … so we had something to tear apart … sorry … I mean … develop.

All done … and Niall had some great ideas … as I scribbled away.

We might have something to show you the week after next.


I’m off to do a pile of telephone interviews … been sneezing all morning and hope it’s just allergies and not a cold … positive thinking Liz …

Have a good day.



p.s. and just cause I can … I’m posting Patsy’s photo for the 3rd time


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Up again at 8am after a great nights sleep … checked emails and then took Coco for a 75 minute walk.

And we do stride along … I can feel the muscles in my legs and bum working … that’s for sure.

Grey, cold and chilly today … Lock 5 was the same.

Decided not to bring my camera and just enjoy the walk.


Home to do some SKIL2 work by the fire … have designed the frontpage ‘look’  for the site … and sent it to Marc for his genius touch.

My design mantra for the SKIL2 learning space/site is … SIMPLE + FUNCTIONAL – like a deux chevaux.


Yummy and deeply healthy lunch … put the tuna bean mix I made yesterday into a wholemeal wrap … grated a wee bit of parmesan on it and then … baked it for 15 minutes. Put on top of a field of lettuce greens and sprouts sprinkled with herbs and some lime juice … yum.

Made one extra and brought it in to Dee.

Having fresh hamburger, mega vege & mustard and chive crushed potatoes for dinner.

Popped in next door to say hello to my lovely neighbour Therese Hamill. I made her up a big pot of bulbs so she can have colour and scent on these dreary weather days … we had a great chat and laughed away at things.

While I’ve been working Coco and I have enjoyed being by the fire … very very cosy and warm.


My friends Miriam and Jimmy were on an RTE program last Friday called ‘Nationwide’.

They run workshops for people wanting to build their own wind turbine and move to more sustainable and offgrid energy sources.

Over 400,000 people watched the show and they have been inundated with calls and emails … bloody brilliant I say.

They have just started another workshop in Ballinamore today and it is all sold out … they have started a waiting list.

They will also be running a week long course in Gort, Galway in September.

If you’re interested in their workshops and sustainable energy go check their site.

I think I’ll take a break and pop over for a quick cuppa with Mags.

Lynda and Derek are doing just fine in Athens Georgia … which I’m sure is a fine place … but it’s not Ballinamore folks. They are househunting and have found a couple that might be their new home … hope so.

I hear from another friend of theirs in Portland that they all may be meeting in New York in September. I just might pop over to say hi.

Hope your week has gone well.

A special hello to Trina … I see on Facebook that you’re back from New Zealand and working away in Dublin. I would love to catch up with you soon.



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