COURAGE TO SPIN
How can you use existing resources responsibly? How is meaningful life and work possible? Three young people took these questions seriously. Her answer: A spinning mill from sustainable living eV
Adrian Rinnert, Friederike Böttcher and Ursula Eichendorff are sitting in front of their house in the midday sun in work trousers and warm sweaters, eating bread with homemade spreads. Ahead, pink dahlias nod in the fall breeze and slightly tousled roses lean against the loose willow fence. Rinnert looks around happily: “Living with likeable people makes you happy.” Helene, the little daughter of Rinnert and Böttcher, also looks content as she munches on her zucchini cream sandwich. Anton, Eichendorff’s son, is already fed up and jumping around on the trampoline. The idyll is framed by mountains of clay, site fences and wheelbarrows.
The small community has been living on the farm in Lausitz since 2012, building on their house and the former wood wool spinning mill opposite. The site is surrounded by tall trees in a valley through which meanders the lazy little river Struga. The Struga used to drive a roaring water wheel, which used the power of machines to process tree trunks into wood shavings. Today there is peaceful calm over the yard and over the garden with glowing pumpkins, bean trellis, chard, lush overgrowth and huge compost.
“You plant, you water, you take care of the soil and at the end you can harvest and eat something – it just feels sensible,” says Rinnert. From year to year, the three grow more and are constantly learning. Her goal is to eventually become completely self-sufficient. “Self-sufficiency is part of the responsibility that we want to take on towards our grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” explains Böttcher. For the same reason, they don’t just buy the materials for the gradual expansion of the house and wood wool spinning mill at the hardware store. They prefer to experiment with unusual building materials and old techniques.
Böttcher, Eichendorff and Rinnert always try to use what is available as a resource. New ideas are discussed and tried out, even if they sound crazy at first. With this in mind, they christened their farm and life project: A spinning mill from sustainable living eV
They were in their mid-20s when they bought the dilapidated spinning mill. “Our friends thought we were crazy,” Rinnert recalls, “but we just went for it.” Friederike Böttcher had just finished her biology and history degree. Adrian Rinnert gave up his veterinary studies shortly before the last exam and Ursula Eichendorff quit her job as a social worker. Then they dared to move together from Potsdam to rural Lusatia, which catapulted them from comfortable shared rooms into raw rooms with no protective windows and no bathroom.
But stone by stone, the ruined house from the 19th century becomes a real home: a small work of art of recycling and upcycling. The floors are insulated with old bottles and cups embedded in clay. The walls were rebuilt from existing bricks. Under the golden autumn sun, pantiles preserved from the heap change from purple to ocher yellow and clay pipes left behind after a bankruptcy form the gable of the colorful roof. Wool, too bristly for sweaters, is mixed with clay to insulate the ceilings.
The old wood wool spinning mill is yet to undergo such a transformation. But a fresh wind is already blowing through the high clinker brick building with the empty window cavities. The former salon on the ground floor with its decorative ceiling painting is used as a storeroom. Old things are waiting for a second life here: large windows, slatted frames, radiators, cans with rusty nails. “The warehouse may look chaotic,” laughs Rinnert, “but I keep track of things.” That’s obvious in his workshop. Slats and boards, old and new, donated or traded, are stored neatly on shelves.
The workshop and garden of the spinning mill are already open to visitors and a place for new plans. “People come who want to fix something or exchange it; Children who do handicrafts and play or guests who just want to relax. When large and small projects come together, there is often a creative mess,” says Rinnert happily. In addition, many people come to events such as the annual adventure camp for children, to spread workshops or to exchange knowledge for starting their own farm.
When the three discovered that another opencast mine was being planned in their neighborhood, they spontaneously founded an action alliance including a newspaper; both give a voice to opencast resistance.
However, not all of the spinning mill’s previous projects have been successful. On the first floor of the Holzwollspinnerei are the remains of a free shop. The donated coats and wool sweaters, computer consoles, toasters and colorful tinnef were not well received by the villagers and visitors.
That’s a shame, but Rinnert doesn’t mind: “I don’t want to lose my joy,” he says, “because that’s the key to everything.” Examining bottles scientifically, with solidarity sheep farming and meadow orchards in the neighborhood and on the high tip left behind by the opencast mine, they want to come a step closer to self-sufficiency.
When the old wood wool spinning mill is equipped with solar cells, heat storage and windows, the first floor will become a large seminar room for political or ecological discussion groups. Rinnert calls this dream a “platform for all reason”. Maybe the spinning mill will even become a living transformation laboratory. And maybe a free school can even be founded here in the end. Above all, however, Böttcher, Eichendorff and Rinnert not only want to test alternatives to classic consumption cycles themselves, but also pass them on.
It’s already happening on a small scale: when gardening and cooking, visitors experience a more conscious use of resources and take home ideas for spreads made from regional ingredients. As a comprehensive principle of life, however, the sustainable practice of spinning is full of prerequisites, requires courage and courageous openness to unconventional paths and risks. Even familiar things are let go, such as the quick warmth of the floor heating or cherished luxury, such as the latest outdoor jacket. That’s not for everyone, Rinnert laughs: “But as an idealist, I can get by with very little”. Eichendorff also wants to be able to stow all her possessions in just one cupboard. She sums it up: “I find satisfaction here, meaning in our projects, support in the community and I enjoy beautiful moments with the children in nature.”