Lebensgarten Dreisamtal: Deconstructing a Greenhouse

As I walked towards the Lebensgarten this morning I could hear bongos and guitars playing in the distance. Clara, Chris and Miriam, as it turned out, had camped out in the garden’s tent so they could be ready to go for the big project of the day, namely driving to Donaueschingen to take down old greenhouses gifted to the Lebensgarten. The work still is in progress. I was only able to go for today, but I’m very excited to see them installed at the Lebensgarten in the coming weeks.

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The drive was incredible. I had gone on most of that highway on the way to go snow-shoe walking in Feldberg, but I had never been to Donaueschingen.

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When Clara said she had received word that she could take home new greenhouses for free, I never would have imagined they’d be as large as they were.

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All eight of us stood in amazement, not knowing exactly where to begin. But like good Germans everyone effortlessly broke into groups, some drawing an architectural sketch of the greenhouses’s frame structure, others devising on the fly a system for labeling each individual metal beam (there were hundreds) so that it would be understood where each piece went in the reconstruction phase.

We had breaks now and then with coffee, pretzels from the local bakery and later pizza and soda. The atmosphere was very relaxed. I notice that the workers in the garden always schedule in breaks, more breaks than I’m used to working in America, but I think that’s an important aspect of the German work culture. When one is working, they are really working, but they know how to rest so they can be more efficient for later.

I had various small jobs throughout the day. First taking advantage of my height by taking down cables. Later unscrewing bolts on beams from ladders and holding down ladders for others. At the end I was assigned to cut the plastic covering so it could be fully removed. Near the beams were strange pointy looking plants. I began to pull them away and found my hand stung despite me wearing gloves and my arm was turning red.

I turned to the person next to me and said, “Ich denke ich bin allergisch gegen diese Pflanze. Was ist es eigentlich?

He laughed and said, “Alle sind allergisch gegen diese Pflanze. Es heißt Brennnesseln.

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For non-German speakers I noticed I had an allergic reaction to the plant I touched, told the person next to me and asked what it was. He laughed because everyone is allergic to the plant, because it is called Stinging Nettle.

I had heard of the plant before but wasn’t aware it had medicinal properties. Chris said on the drive back that he had used it to heal an injury to his Archilles Tendon. Talk about painful.

I had an amazing day and think everything about the project was inspiring. First of all I am inspired by the incredible teamwork of the workers of the Lebensgarten. Secondly, I am impressed that the greenhouses were given away for free, since greenhouses of that size can cost upwards of 20,000 euros (when sold new I’m assuming, or perhaps even used). Thirdly, because the team had the patience to disassemble the greenhouses because of a passion to recycle something that would have otherwise never be used again. Since they were a little old the plan was either to give them away to anyone willing to do the work or simply get rid of them. Everyone working today shared a passion for nature and for recycling something that could be made new again and I found that to be very exciting.

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