Club99 of Okodorf Sieben Linden

Poppau, Near Salzwedel, Germany/2001.08.19-2001.09.10

A few years ago Silke presented her idea of a totally-free of exploitation and maximum self-responsibility neighborhood in Okodorf Sieben Linden (Seven Linden Trees Ecovillage) and was faced with the usual pessimistic and mediocre reactions. She exclaimed that even if it would be the 99th neighborhood, it would be. Today, Club99 is in its advanced development stages and so far the only successfully planned neighborhood in the village.

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   Summer was over with the end of August but until then we enjoyed this manmade natural pool and beach (without cement and chlorine - the plants and frogs naturally clean it).
We have been to the Twelve Tribes, a community that works by the way of extreme solidarity. The founders of the Sieben Linden thought there must be a different way, where individuality and creativity can be nurtured and not condemned. They came up with the idea of creating a mother community which is made of different neighborhoods or sub-communities each defined by their members who preferably chose to be together because of common ideas and lifestyle choices. The advantages are obvious - smaller group means less compromise and more freedom, while being part of a mother community means having the benefits and stability (especially in logistics) of a larger group.

In reality the people were much more concerned about having nice modern homes and a school rather than defining the different neighborhoods. So today there are two residential buildings, which are large and comfortable, but far from the original idea of a small community and there is also another residential house in the next village Poppau. There is also a private school which was created before they knew where the village would be and now the kids are petrol-driven 3 times a day for about half an hour each way. People who had not yet formed or joined a group to build their house/neighborhood with, live in the many wagons around the common building.

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The common building, with offices, different workshops, library, play room, a few guest rooms, a big meeting space, and a kitchen and dining room for the people who live in wagons, guests, and occasionally club99ers. The food was almost entirely vegan with some non-vegan options on the side. There are a few commercial indoor composting toilets (not a single flush toilet here!) and showers.

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The two residential buildings, ecologically built with passive-solar design, and a neat central solar/wood heating system. Our half of a wagon and an herbs spiral in front.

22_forest_momo_20010904 (135KB)The Club99 neighborhood is somewhat separate, behind the pine trees and the psychedelic forest mushrooms. It is a zone free of electricity, non-vegan food, smoking, machines, private capital and monogamy. Members and guests live in wagons and tents, and the main occupation is building the first house, the common house, with residential ones to follow. There are only 3 official members so far, several potential members in line, and many guests who are eager to participate in the building process of the first legal strawbale house in Germany. has all the fine details about this unique house and building principals but it's in German so here's the general picture.

06_house-front_roof-work_ofek_20010830 (123KB)The idea is to build a house in a way that anyone at anytime could build and afford independently using only eco-compatible materials and design. There's no need for expensive machines and therefore there no dependency on electricity and fossil fuel. There's no need for so-called experts and no need for really strong men. The materials are all freely and locally available in abundance - straw from the grain fields for the strawbales, mud, clay, sand and manure for different plaster or earth-cement mixes, big marble stones from the graveyard (a grave plot in Germany is reused after 30 years if the family doesn't pay) for the foundations, and salvaged wood logs, bricks, windows, doors, and tiles from the many construction-waste dumps that are everywhere these days. Before the construction began they had been planning, collecting materials and the tools they needed including manual hand drills, saws of all sizes, ladders, etc. The two-story house is basically a big box made and insulated by strawbales and earth plaster. The box is raised above the earth, with a big roof that exposes most of the south facing wall and big windows and hides most of the north facing wall. This design makes it possible to absorb the sun's heat in winter time, and when there's no sun a wood fire for a couple of hours would generate enough heat for the day since the thick and insulated walls would keep most of it in. In the summer the house is shaded by the big north facing roof.

The skeleton of the house was already up when we arrived and the work was concentrated around the walls and roof. Work was intense, but rewarding. Without serving machines, time had a whole different perception, and the best word to describe the work is quality and not perfection but the attempt at perfection. Without the petrol related smells and sounds, more people could work together and at the same time converse, sing and cooperate simply and directly. We manually compressed and adjusted strawbales, we cut huge pieces of wood with a big saw (requires 2 people), we made and mixed plaster, we coated the walls, we dug up the sandy earth and laid down big grave stones, collected bricks, and lined many, many, many roof tiles.

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Human chain in the rain bringing the tiles up to the roof. Preparing the mix of mud, straw, and sand for the plaster.

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Coating the strawbales with a thick layer of plaster.

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Martin straightening the walls, OfeK's hole for the foundation for the chimney, and Momo cleaning up the scrap wood.

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Lunch break would being with "tuning-in" for a minute of silently holding hands followed by Vera's delights. The sisters taking a break...

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16_parabolic-sun-cooker_20010830 (70KB)Hints of other activities that are now a little neglected can be seen around the neighborhood - Saved-from-waste wool mulching of the garden and young trees, a very nice parabolic solar cooker (there was a box one too) which was used to heat the water for washing the dishes and a solar dehydrator that was waiting for surplus fruit.

In the cold and long winters they work on updating and improving the directory of communities Eurotopia, which we have a copy of, and together with working for Sieben Linden, guest contributions and unemployment money, they have the little income they need.

For the first couple of weeks we were somewhat lost. There were many participating guests, and the Club99ers 26_concert_20010825 (60KB)were busy with the managing of the work and building the house. We had some nice one-on-one conversations with a few people, but most of the time we had no idea what's going on, and the only communal activity that we could understand was a performance by this "German" musician singing kitsch in English. The food was first-class and all organic and vegan (some complained that it's too luxurious) and our room was nice, but the warm atmosphere we got used to in other places was absent. Even though there was a daily fee that was more expensive than any other place and the hospitality was similar to that of a work-camp (work, pay, stay), we admired the goals and ideas of Club99 and wanted to know more about it. So after two weeks and once they knew more about us, things became more personal, and we actually came back here some weeks later with OfeK's mother and sister.

We will definitely try to make it back here in a few years. We are especially interested to see how children will blend in with the concepts. After all, people tend to be much less self-responsible when it comes to parenting. As in most communes we visited in Germany, the children of Sieben Linden are not integrated into the communal daily life at all. There is complete ignorance and negative attitude towards taking responsibility for education (i.e. unschooling) in Germany (one of the few countries where it is not officially legal, yet very few try to change that). The parents are insistent about the kids calling them by their first name (to break down family power structures), yet go with the stream and use their "eco" disposable diapers, sleep separately from their babies, and afterwards send them to their so called alternative state-approved yuppie child-depots.

If Club99 will continue in its current course, it will definitely become a role-model (it already is) for Sieben Linden and the rest of the world. It will redefine what is possible and what is impossible and reveal the true and direct path towards high quality of living!

Martin, Silke, Bjoern - May all your visions come true with little to no compromise! Optimism forever! Danke for everything!

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No copyright! (but be nice please...) composed by OfeK.