While searching for a house in the countryside we always imagined to transform an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. How we have to excavate the soul of our house from beneath layers of musty wallpapers and PVC covered floors. On the one hand, this thought of a little treasure hunt was beautiful. On the other hand, it was an incredibly great feeling to set foot into our settler’s house the first time and already sensing all the hidden treasures. Without speculation.

By the way, we already showed you the house last autumn. We just never dared to dream to ever call it our own one day. Back then, we just marvelled at and enjoyed it, always looking forward to renting it soon again as a holiday residence from Knut and Christina from Gutshaus Rensow. Meeting them did not only enrich our life interpersonally, did not only inspire us to create new dishes and to new stories, but in the end gave us a new direction in life. Out of the blue, Knut and Christina asked us if we could imagine living in the old settler’s house. Despite the excitement about the house there was a spark of doubt. Dreaming of a home of your own is great, but having the dream within our grasp is something completely different. Still, after a short hesitation we knew we would never have this chance again. Just think about the location! Embedded in fields, just a few meters from Gutshaus Rensow in which we spent so many great days last year,

with all the people we grew fond of and who changed our perspective on so many things.

With their love for old houses and their thoughts about it Knut and Christina gave us a new perspective on the patina of old things. We always appreciated used stuff and its imprints which tell so many stories. Slowly we begin to realize why. Knut and Christina brought us closer to the term of Wabi. In Japanese, it stands for the elementary simple and unadulterated and for the inherent beauty of unpretentious things. Along these lines we want to continue in the settler’s house what those two already started – to emphasize the character and basic structures which are already there. Clay, masonry, worn floor boards, spalling layers of colour. All of it becomes some sort of abstract art on which time left its marks. We want to support this by using organic materials like plant-based dyed natural linens and lime paint.

For us it is important to develop a sense for the right selection of materials and colours fist, living in the house and observe it. The variations of light and shadows alone contribute a lot to our decisions. With light and shadows not only colours or rooms have their appeal, but also specifically placed objects unfold their beauty in the shadows’ patterns. It will take time to find these objects. We like searching for these treasures, though.

We already decided for the colours on which light and shadow will dance. The lime colours from Bauwerk Colour* appealed to us, they are manufactured in harmony with nature. Especially we love the warm hues which convey the impression of clay, loam and earth on the walls. They fit the house and atmosphere perfectly. It is always great to discover companies which do not only convince us with their products but also with their philosophy. The lime colours are made from clay, minerals and natural pigment. They neither contain biocides or other toxic additives, nor are chemicals blown into the environment during the fabrication process, which is powered by 100% eco-power.

Even if we already chose our favourite colours, we want to proceed cautiously and take our time with the decisions. The house has a mind of its own and does not buckle. We are the ones led on by the house. For example, we wanted to play with the wooden panels concerning the colour which were painted in a soft gray. However, when we noticed the wallpaper behind them which accumulated moisture which made the surface porous we briefly were at loss. There was no way we keep such prone spots. To remove all the panels was never planned at all, though. Our colour plans were thrown over as well as our schedule. Such unexpected incidents may be annoying first, but we want to see them more as gifts. Beneath the panels, wallpaper and stalling surface we found the masonry with clay and bricks.

With that we got entirely new, natural structures and colours you can only find but not make. To reveal the whole masonry also means to show the history. Well, our house’s history is not hundreds of years old but still, the bricks and clay – raw, bare, solid materials – were put together 70 years ago.

Settler’s houses are basic, usually freestanding houses with small living space but a large property. They were especially built after the First World War and partly given to unemployed people or refuges for self-supply. Often, stables or extra houses belonged to the houses, which were, due to shortage of material, built of recycled materials. Bigger buildings like barns were teared down to build more small houses. The front of our house, which was originally used as a stable, you find timbers which are over 300 years old and found new usage there in the late 1940s. Every day, we discover a bit more of this history. When we walk over the cold, uneven bricks barefooted, then over warm, greyed wood. When we look out of the window it feels like a painting which will change over the years. When the flames in the oven cast their shadows on the walls. All those small things tell us something about those who built this house and lived in it. To observe these simple things is incredibly inspiring and in some way also soothing. They let us feel what da Vinci meant when he said simplicity is the highest level of accomplishment.

The past weeks were basically filled with waiting. Waiting for the documents to be proved, appointments to be made and contracts to be signed. To prevent the bureaucratic back and forth spoil our anticipation for our settlers house we made a lot of plans, pored over books about gardening, looked for suiting furniture and at least once dreamed of how it will be, until a few days ago we finally had the keys in hands. Now, exciting weeks and months lay ahead. To realize all the ideas and dreams we had will be pretty tough and sometimes even impossible. We noticed pretty fast this house has its own character. However, we want to embark on it, discover the house’s character and work with it and thus, changing as little as possible but enough to transform it into a cosy home. More soon!

A big project will be to lay out a garden on our property. Since the garden year 2018 is ready to start we already have itchy fingers. Still, we are afraid we may have too high expectations of ourselves. Even if we learned a lot the past years on growing vegetables, we are still rookies. So we may hope for some beginner’s luck.

We won’t approach this project without a plan, of course. We set the goal to cultivate our land as permaculture (permanent agriculture) and to establish a sustainable circular economy, which regulates itself with its own rhythm and to enable diverse living beings to live together. This way, a food cycle can be established in which every animal meets its natural predators, thus contributing to a healthy garden. We want to create spaces for all the little helpers. Hedgehogs, bees, earthworms, birds, butterflies, and even spiders will be welcome in our garden.

Permaculture basically means for us to observe and find into nature. To understand nature to the fullest probably lays outside the boundaries of human intellect, but this should not prohibit us to live in harmony with her. Humans love to change the processes of nature to optimize them and to produce even more. But nature is perfect already. Graham Bell wrote in his book The Permaculture Garden: “Ecological damages are usually the result of human interference.

Thus, to interfere as less as possible with nature is the best method if you want to do something for the environment.”

Of course, we inherently interfere with nature as soon as we plan directed growing of fruits and vegetables – it is called permanent agriculture, not permanent agrinature. Still, we can do this in a way in which we contribute to a nutritious soil by using intercropping.

So far, so good. The big task now is to analyse our property, to observe, to decide where the best place is for which plant, and which plant benefit from each other so we can draw on a lush garden in summer. Out of curiosity we took some samples from the soil to measure the ph value on different spots of our property. We also already found some plants and wild herbs which let us guess the values. All this we want to include in our planning. The light and shadow conditions especially have an impact, but also the structures which are already there and which we can use to our advantage. The southern house front reflects the sun, thus projecting more warmth. Here, we want to have sun loving plants. Also, we can use the bricks of the rather useless stonewall as a heat accumulator somewhere else. An already planted hedge can be used as windbreak and to give shade. All this slowly forms a picture and we get a feeling for our property.

Now, we ponder which fruits and vegetables we just have to grow. Since we could not collect as much seeds from our balcony as we need we use old breed seeds from Manufactum and especially the seeds from Dreschflegel. Grete is one of the producers. By the way, her farm, which we visited last year several times, is only 5km from our house. Her seeds are perfectly adapted to the local conditions. After everything is examined, sorted and assigned, we can start growing the first plants.

And if everything goes awry, moles and snails eat all our harvest, or something else we can’t imagine yet just goes wrong, we already know that Grete’s delicious vegetables are growing just around the corner. We definitively won’t starve…

Today, we do not only start a new category on our blog, but open a whole new chapter of our life.

As much we enjoy the advantages of living in a great city, our wish to live a primal and conscious life in close touch with nature grew stronger the last years. We leave Berlin again and again, with increased regularity. Even if we tried to fulfil this wish partly in the city, for example with a opulently planted balcony, it can of course never be the same as nature itself.

The consequence is a safe haven, far away from all the fuzz: a settler house in Mecklenburg. Built 1948, surrounded by fields, it stands with a barn on a larger than 3000m² piece of land, on which cherry, apple, plum and peach trees grow, and which waits to be cultivated by us. Since country life is not always as romantic as one might imagine now and then, but has a work-intensive daily routine, we are curious how this will change us.

All we know is that every time we’ve been into nature before for a few weeks, we found ourselves a bit more. How grounding ordinary things as chopping wood and making fire can be.

Man always strives for something higher, for new challenges, wants to achieve something to give meaning to his live and forgets to cherish the simplicity.

Is the meaning of life not to just live? Here and now. Do we really have to leave our mark on the world? Don’t we chase an idée fixe which blinds us for the important things in life?

Masanobu Fukuoka writes in his book The road back to nature: “In the same extent man detaches himself from nature, he detaches from his centre.” We want to find back to this centre. We want to appreciate the music of nature, the swish of leaves, the rushing of the wind. Feel earth beneath our fingers out of which fruits and vegetables grow.

How often did we rack our brains what a seasonal and regional diet actually means to us. Most important has always been to be close to nature again by cooking along the seasons. To support this from our own garden has been a big dream of ours. The planting of our balcony alone changed our appreciation for food. The grasp of the effort, work and especially the necessary knowledge to grow a nutritious fruit out of a seed. All of this was on our minds for a long time and will have its own place on our blog from now on. We want to tell you from our daily life in our garden and share our thoughts and experiences about our settler house with you. We hope you like to join us on our adventure.

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