The chickens are awake; somehow they always know when you are. Do they rise with the sun, does it depend on the chickens? Lucky for them I’m up early today. The nights are silent here, and there are no lights, outside in the Brandenburg countryside. Deep sleep. But the workers come in early to renew the roof of one of the buildings, the three dogs have to be shut in first, and while we’re at it, might as well feed all the animals in one sweep.

The chickens are awake and swarm the thin blue fence as I come down the kitchen steps with scraps from last night’s cooking in the big white bowl. The five of them coo, chuckle and stand in my way; good, let them concentrate on the corn husks and pips while I open the chicken coop and change the straw while they’re not looking. I’ll take the old straw to the flowerbeds we built on the other side of the stream, to keep the bulbs toasty through winter (fingers crossed). There’s very little waste, here, at Eco Hacker Farm: what humans don't eat either goes to the compost (and straight back to the earth to grow more edibles) or to the chicken and ducks, who… well, they produce an egg, sometimes, but mostly they’re terribly cute. And the ducks escape, a lot – out via the stream in the morning, running off all in a row; and back again in the evening to shelter from the fox.


There’s very little waste, which means quite a lot of work picking, transforming and cooking produce. They rely - I’d say at 50-75% - on what grows here, only thereafter introducing grain, legumes, dairy or vegan alternatives from outside shops. The pantry (or Speisekämmer) is a cool room by the kitchen where the upper shelf groans under the weight of fruit jams, chutneys, sauces, and pickled vegetables. On the tiled floor, boxes of apple and massive cucumbers. There’s still a fridge, though, and a freezer. I’m a full proponent of killing the fridge in favor of the old, 1839-built “cold earth cellar” in the mandala garden, but then again since I don’t live here full-time, it’s a bit easier for me to say. There are also, let’s not forget, about 220kg of pumpkins in the hacker area.

220kg of pumpkin actually take very little space in the hacker area, laid out unobtrusively under one of the desks, behind the four couches and chairs on which most of the time you’ll find either Aimee or Franz, keepers of the space, coding or juggling projets; and three cats, deeply asleep, draped over everything. Aimee and Franz, whose family house this is, are looking for more people to live in permanently, or more projets to host that would bring in some revenue. As much as the Kuckucksmuehle functions as a circle system, any unexpected event, investment or accident eats into whatever the farm needs to live.

It’s a very down-to-earth, non-compromising space. Open-source : knowledge comes in, knowledges goes out, and there is a general policy of sharing and welcome. Collaboration : what there is to do is clear, and trackable, and shared, via an online system on the Redmine platform. And yets, it’s an old farm, in the rainy countryside. Things fall apart, people get tired, the dogs escape. Again. Even though we reinforced and raised the gates with metal and wood and wire, twice this week (and many times this summer, I’ve heard).

Things fall apart, people get tired, the dogs escape, but the capucine is in full swing and makes a kick-ass pesto. There was an initiative for vegan chocolate cake today. Bikes wait for riders, the old heating system turns wood into bathwater, and there are so many herbs for tea.