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Why the vineyard was more than grapes

Everyone who has come to the barracks has heard the story of the vineyard, of the crazy dream, of the best friend I was going to do it with. The guy who, after years of planning together and throwing ideas back and forth, decided not to in the end.

the entrance to the vineyard. You can't mow it with the tractor. It needs pigs!

Obviously, he's fully allowed to change his mind, but in the final analysis, he screwed me over, made no attempt to mitigate that, we are no longer friends, and that’s the end of it.


I’ve written the History of the Vineyard article many times and, in an atypically wise and restrained move, never posted it. It was cathartic, it can be left unsaid.


It is, however, sad.

There are a few reasons it’s sad. The first is because it was a truly crazy idea.

You can’t grow grapes here. You just can’t. Everyone knows that. It’s too cold, too wintry, too icy, not enough sunshine.

The only two people who believed, really believed, that this prevailing wisdom was wrong were me and him.

I also believed it was necessary.


For most people, climate change remains an abstract concept. Despite the consequences being almost surreally real, for most people it still belongs “somewhere else, some time else”. I want to inspire people to believe the reality of it by doing something which can’t be done. The barracks itself is meant as a learning and messaging centre of what we should be doing, but even the 5.5 hectares of this crazy institution that is falling around about my ears is still too abstractly connected to the climate catastrophe for it to be inspiring.

two years ago, I started to mow the area which would become the vineyard. It took scores of hours and became a popular place for visitors to mediate. It does have a special energy

Maybe, so the thought went, if I can feed people half decent wine grown here, where it can’t grow (see paragraphs passim), maybe the physical sensation of the impossible will help to make the abstract reality of climate catastrophe more physically real.


We were going to be 50-50 on the whole venture. I was going to put in the hours and the effort, he was going buy-in with cash, plus the cost of plants.

To me, these days, the €3500 he was going to contribute as buy-in money sounds like a lot of money. But, maybe to you, 500 hours of work sounds like a lot of time. He has money, I have time. It all works out, and we both considered this an equitable deal.

We agreed, we were happy, let’s do this thing.


I need that money. I've taken the barracks so far. I've laid all the groundwork for full self sufficiency. To kick it to the next degree of proper off grid living, to really level up, I need to spend some money.

I can now grow all the food that a couple of vegans can eat in a year. This is the ground level.

The barracks has never been about technical self sufficiency. It's about the best of humanity. Sure, the climate catastrophe was caused by HooMans, but in our blip of time on this rock, we have done some truly transcendentally brilliant stuff. One day, the barracks will have extensive libraries, the ability to create music, an observatory. I want to celebrate and remember all that we have achieved. Language and ballet and painting and sculpture. One day, all that will be here


The next level, though, is a better level of survival! I need to transform a LOT more of the area into productive growing spaces. It needs to be beautiful and a delight to all the senses, not just the stomach. We need all the herbs and spices we can grow, the medicinal as well as the kitchen herb gardens. The necessities you don't think about - flour, sugar, cooking oil. Personally, although they say I can live without it, I need margarine as well. We need to be able to build and make and design and create.


I am doing well with the gardens, the woodworking is going ok. The money from the vineyard partnership would have turbo charged it all.


I think the best way to illustrate this is to give you my top-5 shopping list.


I was going to buy:


A Hecht 7100 cultivator / tiller €780

I don’t want to rely on anything which uses petrol, but with this beast, I can in just a week, prepare up all the new ground that is needed to feed the piggies. Two years ago, I bought a packet of sunflower seeds and a packet of sweetcorn seeds. Last year, I saved over 3000 seeds of each. Or in other words, enough seed to grow enough food to keep the piggies happy all winter. In the summer, they get vegetables, in the winter, they get feed and as much green stuff as I can find. I have the seeds, I have the plan, I don’t have the ground to plant them in. The degree to which I was relying on the cultivator is my mistake. But I promise you, I can’t prepare this ground by hand in less than about another 5 years.


An oil extractor €800

I don’t just need the cultivator for ground for the piggies. I need it for the non-food-food-things as well. Oil, sugar (for jams!), and extracts. The most important of these is oil. Last year, we spent a lot of time and effort on the Nutzfläche - all for growing nuts for oil. I had also planned a vast area for pumpkins this year. The flesh goes to the piggies, the seeds get dried and turned into oil. Of course, the sunflowers as well. Some for the piggies, some for sunflower oil. There’s not much point doing any of this without a oil extractor.

Like I said above, there are going to be a LOT of sunflowers. I doubt that in the first year of super awesome sunflower production I will be able to grow an entire year's worth of cooking oil and enough to feed this pigs. But I know, it doesn't matter how many I grow if I can't get the oil out of them.



A vacuum extraction system for the wood shop €500

I’m going to start doing a lot more woodworking - there is a lot of stuff which needs to be made for the barracks. And I’m frankly getting a little bored of the massive cleanup which is needed after each project, not to mention breathing in wood dust for hours at a time. It’s probably not a great idea. When setting up a wood shop, the extractor is often seen as a luxury. It shouldn’t be really. It should be completely basic to the set up.



Some construction stuff €lots

Solar Panels and batteries

Passive heat exchange greenhouse,

Fixing the roof of the Big House

Outdoor shower block

Sauna and hot tub!!


They won't all be done this year, they wouldn't have been done even with the investment. But none of them can be done for free. Though, I promise you, I am manifesting like the best of them. And, seriously, I am the best of them when it comes to manifesting stuff. Don't believe me? Come round, bring a bottle of rim and I will convince you!.


The orchard. €800


I have around 40 fruit trees. In a not insignificant number of years, this will produce a large amount of fruit. But, never enough. I was hoping to add at least another 30 this year. They are about 30 euros each. Yeah, that's a lot of trees.

I have a cunning plan about getting sponsorship. I just need to psych myself up to write the letter. In German :)

Also, ironically, grapes. I'd still like to plant some grapes.