For a variety of work areas of the place – dairy, bakery, kitchen, animal care and everything else – our volunteers have been indispensable since a long time. We would never have been able to master all the major tasks of recent years without so much voluntary help. Creation of the ‹Waldsee› as well as the building of the two new houses – ‹Haus der Natur› and ‹Youth Hostel›’ are of course the first to be mentioned here, but are followed by many medium-sized and smaller projects.

Path building 2.0

When we started planting our gardens in 2011, no one could have predicted the very high number of guests who would stroll through our gardens a few years later.

A very positive surprise, but a lot of visitors means a lot of usage and at some point renovation work will be necessary. We also noticed that the beautiful gravel paths unfortunately had insufficient width for many guests. In other words, they were too narrow, often making it difficult to walk through the gardens. Changes were needed.

We reopened the season of ‹path building› to ensure a satisfactory broadening of the garden paths. Those who helped here had to be so strong in order to break the existing stones out of the concrete and get them out of the path, as well as to fetch new concrete in wheelbarrows to re-insert the stones. Of course, all in their designated places just under the string that marks the outside of the path. This is a project that will take a while because we learned from many years of path-building that a piece-by-piece approach is the right method in order avoid disrupting visitors for longer periods of time. You know that from the motorway!

Walls for a special piece of landscapeMauern für ein besonderes Stück Landschaft

During the construction of the ‘Waldsee’, the first step was the clearing of the area (where the rubble was and the old landfill was deeper in the earth). In autumn 2015, we began to cut trees down. After that, the excavators arrived; at first, only machines had access to the site. When the shapes of the lake – two huge, interlocking shells – were laid out, our volunteers came back on the scene. The main task was to set the stones for the terraces.

‘Wall construction!’ was the motto for several months. The walls were built during wintertime. This was a real challenge for our helpers, who demonstrated endurance and resilient humour. The result is impressive; 1.5 km of romantic terrace walls built in natural stone!

When it was time to plant the roses and the other plants, our helpers were also there again, distributing all perennials with our garden team and undertaking the planting that had been missed in the autumn. This place has now become our little ‘prestige object’ that – thanks to the many diligent hands – could be finished within just one year.

Putting new skills into action

In spring 2017, at the beginning of the construction of the new houses, we had a relatively small team of helpers. However, over the months we grew steadily. Everyone learned on the job. Many people had never held a cordless screwdriver before. It’s hard to believe that despite working with many seemingly unqualified people, the construction of two such large houses was possible. It was a nice experience to see what hidden talents were lying within each person!

There are also examples of people who, after helping out at the construction site, took their careers in this direction. That’s a great result in our eyes! From concreting to woodwork, from insulation on to the drywall work. Some have become real specialists in plastering, sanding and painting; work that went on for months. The houses are finished and officially opened; the volunteers have moved into the ‘Blue House’. In the ‘Yellow House’, the ‘Haus der Natur’, the first event program starts with seminars, workshops and other events around the topic of nature.

The skills in building, plastering, sanding and painting are still with us; they are all things we’ve become pretty good at. Employees and volunteers who stay longer with us are already building new houses in a smaller team. A larger team moved on to the so-called ‘main house’, which the volunteers had densely populated for three years. Now it was time to renovate. Thanks to the acquired know how, we completed this in good time.

Painting panels – a great winter job

Painting is a lot of fun when you’re not alone. It is also a good job for the cold season because you can work indoors. Because of this, part of the construction team became a painting team, with 10 to 15 (mostly) cheerful volunteers moved on to paint the outer boards of the next houses. A job for which we will be very grateful in the summer when the required boards are ready for installation!

The list goes on. But it’s clear and simple; without our helpers, most of our projects would not have been realised. Therefore we hope that the cultural exchange continues to succeed and that more and more people from all over the world get to know the life in our community and learn many things. For us, hosting volunteers is in many ways a very enriching experience which we would like to expand in the future!

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