A reportage in the aftermath of En Oiko 2014 festival.
The “Apo koinou” (“In Common”) cooperative loves autonomy and cooperation!
The “Apo Koinou” team defines itself as a “self-sufficient cooperative community”. Indeed, their bench screamed ‘sufficiency’ from far, since they had all kinds of goodies: Cretan rusks (paximadia), wine, vegetables, olive oil and herbs. The community, as they told us, consists of 10-12 persons who didn't know each other beforehand. This was never an obstacle, as each individual added an ‘ingredient’ in the successful recipe of the community, based on team work and a common vision that can be summarized as follows: focus on primary production and processing with natural methods (no use of pesticides or chemicals) using their own raw materials. All their products are fair trade, meaning that the prices are fair to both the producer’s labor and the consumer’s pocket, offering the lowest possible price. All products are seasonal, respecting natural circles. Their activities have an educational purpose as well, the community is related to an alternative kindergarten (paidokipos) and organizes workshops.
This small and fresh cooperative has already managed to export some of their products abroad. They are optimistic and enthusiastic with their venture and invite anyone who is interested in voluntary work to contact them. If you missed them in the festival, don't worry. You can reach them through their website (www.apokinou.gr) or just call them (+30 2810 822469) to find out more, or even order their products!
Giorgos Sakellaris and Natural Building of Crete
We met Mr. Giorgos at the park entrance, next to a pile of large stone-works and a bench overflowed with information about natural building techniques. He is representing a team called ‘Natural Building of Crete’ (Fisiki Domisi Kritis) with about 50 members. They are based in Lassithi Prefecture, but not all members come from Crete. Some of them, as he told us, are friends from abroad. “We try to motivate people to use natural materials when they decide to build a house”. Houses constructed with cheap ecological materials and the collective work of friends and volunteers, without loans and debt to the bank for the rest of your life, as he says. These bioclimatic houses are made with the minimum ecological footprint, they complete their circle and when they collapse they "once again turn into soil”. Mr Giorgios has made a small summer house for himself in Agios Nikolaos using the technique of earthbags.
And what about these peculiar stone artifacts? They are made with Tadelakt method, a tradition originating in Morocco. A special lime plaster, worked by hand to create beautiful baths, sinks, showers etc; and of course they blend perfectly with the natural building rationale.
Sifis Apostolakis and his funky music instruments
A young instrument maker based in the village of Kritsa (Lassithi prefecture) makes traditional instruments using his hands and his imagination! We met him at the Music Village of “En Oiko” behind his music bench and what we saw amazed us: Lyra, boulgari, baglama, lute and more typical instruments we are used to see and listen to, but they looked different and bizarre at the same time. Sifis offered a free workshop and showed us how to make musical instruments using pumpkins! He makes percussion using alternative materials, like a small tambourine made by metal lids taken from cans instead of cymbals, tweaked and unidentifiable. “Some of the instruments you see are based on my own ideas and designs… all you need is inspiration…” He says that people today don't buy instruments as they used to. They prefer the cheap ones made in China. In this way they get used to the ‘wrong sound’. “The relationship with music is an erotic one. If it irritates your ears, it pushes you away”. Sifis studied instrument making in Kastoria, at the Center of Byzantine Art, the only of its kind in Greece and the Balkans (unfortunately it is now closed). But apparently his passionate love for music is also ‘inherited’, as his father and his grandfather were also instrument makers. And their heritage is still alive in Kritsa…!
Giorgis Fergadakis introduces his gadget ovens
There is no way you passed by ‘En Oiko’ and you didn't notice Giorgis and his peculiar artifacts spread on his tiny bench. “What are these?” This is probably the most common question posed during the four-day festival. “These” are small handmade fire ovens made by soil and straw. Actually, well-sieved soil and straw. This art comes from our grandmothers (and not grandfathers) who used to make them and use them for cooking. Mr. Giorgis argues that he “subconsciously” inherited his talent from his mother and grandmother. His roots are from the eastern Crete and Ierapetra specifically – you can find him there, or perhaps in some cave he converted into a natural deluxe lodging. He lived in a cave like that in Elafonissos (Peloponnese) for 5 (!) years!
We liked Mr. George for his sharp eagle eyes, and his love for these “natural gadgets”, as he calls them. His fire ovens first need to be cooked with care, without the use of flame, and they work either with charcoal or wood. You can cook in them delicious and healthy dishes in the countryside, your garden or even indoors without of electricity. He cooks exclusively in this way and as he revealed to us his favorite food is…chickpeas!
Despoina Mathioudaki unfolds the secrets of the carob bean
This was not the first time we met Despoina Mathioudaki. She was the one who taught us how to make natural soap from olive oil. This was the first time we attended one of her ‘experiential’ workshops and we found out she is a connoisseur of the Cretan diet and traditional practices. She founded the Group of Volunteer Senior Advisers of Healthy Nutrition, whose members visit primary schools and give workshops with great success. What they offer, in a few words, is a more systematic passing on of traditional knowledge to the younger generation by elders who work as volunteers.
Despoina participated in En Oiko with a thematic bench, presenting the benefits of the carob bean (aka locust bean); a typical Cretan product that was recently re-introduced in our diet. Carob flour, carob-chocolate spread, balsamic vinegar with carob, carob-cake, carob cookies and so on. Her products are made with carobs she collects on her own. And because all these diverse combinations of carob and this multi-talented woman inspired us once again, we promise to come back with a new DIY article!