I was dining at a restaurant in Athens, when I mentioned I was vegan and had just recently moved to Evia. Immediately the waiter’s ears perked up and asked whether it was at Free and Real. With over 4000-5000 visitors a year, this Non Profit has reached the ears of people not only in Athens, but Sweden, America and all over the world. A group of like minded individuals got together to strive towards optimum health, the physical, mental and emotional health. Believing that unlike in many societies in the modern world, who have fixated on technological advancement and have forsaken our connection with the natural world, that a blending of technology and nature is the healthiest way forward. They have an enormous section of their website dedicated to describing their vision, so if you are curious, I would encourage you to click here.
The ever changing people staying, visiting and learning at Free and Real have embarked on journeys to learn about eco-building, energy, education, permaculture and natural Farming just to name a few.
Free Resources for Everyone Everywhere & Respect, Equality, Awareness and Learning
Staying close to their ethos, they conduct workshops, festivals and seminars throughout the year to help spread their knowledge to anyone wanting to participate. Dimitri, the driving force behind Mazi Farm, spent several months there in the past and even gave a workshop about regenerative farming. His relationship with the F&R team meant he eagerly told me all about the Mushroom Workshop that was taking place over a weekend in December. Check out the whole video here!
Zero Waste at Free and Real
What truly impressed me about the Free and Real set ups, was their dedication to spreading education in all manners of ways. Their main communal, kitchen area had every sort of herb, tea and spice all in individual glass jars. They created their own products : ranging to delicious spreads to toothpastes all out of natural ingredients, made on site. The sight of these little glass jars excited me, as my journey to Zero Waste has left me depressed at the majority of place’s dependence on plastic. Considering I lost my toothpaste I received from Zero Waste Beauty Australia (a very sad day indeed, and I would recommend anyone in Australia to check out the amazing stock) I was excited to purchase a zero waste toothpaste from Free and Real. To this day, this white mixture is sitting on Mazi Farm’s bathroom sink with everyone happily using this plastic free toothpaste.
Compost Toilets and Toilet Paper Free
The toilets located at all three of the Free and Real sites are also compost (meaning they significantly decrease the water uses while creating fertiliser). If this sounds a little disgusting, I am planning to write an entire post about composts and will have a subsection about composting toilet waste, despite my lack of experience with it, I do find it an interesting concept. On top of the toilets being compost, they also all had bum guns, or bidets installed next to them. Just like I discussed in my taboo zero waste topics, where I cover everything from eliminating toilet paper, female menstrual products and plastic razors, Free and Real hopes to save trees from being used as single use toilet wipes. In the introductory tour, a resident Free and Realer took us through how to use these toilets, explaining the importance behind them and did provide a roll of toilet paper for anyone unsure or unwilling to use the spray to wash themselves.
The little signs around the place also reinforced the goal of helping the environment in any way possible. They had information booklets about menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads for their female guests and a general plack showing the statistics of the trees that fall victim to toilet paper demand.
Mushrooms and I
Partially thanks to Paul Stamet’s Mycelium Running, and partially due to the whispers of the magical abilities of mushrooms scattered across social media, I truly believe that mushrooms can save the world. I therefore looked forward to learning about the native species of fungi found in Greece, with the hope to identify and be able to collect and eat them. As I have mentioned previously in my mushroom hunting video, going out into the forest to find mushrooms is not only the most ideal way to find food : free and natural, but it is also the perfect excuse to spend time in nature.
Mazi team arrived at a beautiful waterfall and thriving forest early on a Friday afternoon. We were met by around 20 people, carrying baskets, knives and a sense of excitement to find the first mushrooms. The forests smelled of fungi, it had recently rained, and the baskets were already filling up with diverse specimens. Our mushroom expert lead a group of us under a cluster of pine trees, where he quickly started pointing out the white lumps poking out from underneath leaves and forest litter.
Named aptly for their constant hiding underneath leaves, these white to light beige mushrooms were everywhere. Growing in bunches scattered randomly across the floor, we identified and collected over 20 in a 10m radius. They are easily identifiable as they have tiny little spines on the underside of their hat.
We moved onto a more oak dominated part of the forest and identified the second edible mushroom of the day.
Easily identifiable as a light orange mushroom with gills that leached orange/reddish milk when cut.
Feeling pleased with ourselves, we also collected a vast range of non edible mushrooms to understand the differences and be able to learn about various traits of mushrooms.
The following day started off with a lecture about mushrooms, where we learned a bit about history, their habitats and a few fun facts.
Did you know..
That mushrooms almost always grow in circles?
This is because the mycelium which comprises the ‘body’ of the fungi stretches out as much as several hundred meters underneath the topmost forest hummus, and the mushrooms that sprout are in reality the mycelium’s fruits?
Mushrooms are the way the mycelium ensures the continuation of its survival, with its spores (seeds) releasing from the mushroom once it reaches maturity. Some mushrooms, like the puff mushroom, are bulbous growths with millions of spores inside, they wait for the rain, and once the raindrops hit the mushroom it projects the spores into the moist environment.
The rest of the weekend was a combination of walks in the forest, comparing mushrooms, discussions about mushrooms and meeting a wide range of fascinating and lovely people. Free and Real managed to attract a diverse group, and I am looking forward to attending more workshops in the future.
Some of the next workshops I hope to attend include permaculture and I even heard a whisper from Felix that there is a solar panel workshop coming soon. Felix, who is a blog genius, is one of those people who managed to stumble across Free and Real despite hailing from Sweden. He has made the place his home and constantly updates me about the cool Eco building projects they work on.
One of the free locations Free and Real has, is named the test site, this location is dedicated to testing out methods of eco building, gardening and various other experiments before their final transferral to the mountain site. The Telaithrion project. If Free and Real was the mother, the Telaithrion would be the baby. Eventually the goal is to have permanent structures on the top of one of the gorgeous hills/mountains in Northern Evia with a food forest, water source and solar panels. A fully self-sustaining collection of houses to allow even larger workshops and inspire more people to harmonise with nature. On the test site, they used cob to construct their kitchen along with wood and recycled glass bottles. Not only do these materials are eco friendly, cheaper but they are also ideal for the hot summers in Greece. The material keeps the cool even through the hottest times of the day. The ingenious oven also means that in winter, while creating a fire to potentially cook with, it simultaneously heats the benches people sit on.
Honestly, since travelling in Cambodia in Otres Village where I encountered the Otres Eco Community, I have not seen anything similar to what Free and Real are attempting to achieve. I look forward to learning even more through out my time on Mazi Farm and in Greece.