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Fulfilling His Life Amidst Candles and Composting Toilet: Friedmunt’s 30 Years Without Electricity in the Woods: “This is the Real Life”

Away from the surrounding towns, deep in the woods, lies the land that Friedmunt Sonnemann has called home and workplace for over 30 years. Here in the Moselle Valley, about 50 kilometers from Trier, he has established his seed multiplication farm and embarked on an alternative way of life with his fellow believers.

Smartphone and computer are alien to the 57-year-old. Such devices are a “very unreal existence,” says Sonnemann. There have never been power lines at Königsfarm. In the evening, a candle illuminates his hut. The König family settled on the site in the 1930s with the intention of building a new existence. Due to the Second World War, they were never able to realize their dreams. “They lived for 50 years in very poor conditions,” Sonnemann recounts.

Candles and Composting Toilet: “This is the Real Life”

Since taking over the site in 1990, he has built two adobe houses on his own. A basic oven keeps his living space warm even on cold winter days. Sonnemann fetches water from a nearby spring, and a composting toilet takes care of the biological recycling of human waste. Recently, a
photovoltaic system
supplies the barn with electricity during sunny hours. In addition, there are other huts and greenhouses. “Almost everything has been created in my time,” Sonnemann says with pride.

In his way, humanity has been living for millennia. Therefore, the 57-year-old emphasizes that he does not consider himself an outcast of society: “From my perspective, this is the real life. I have entered into a truly human life.” His everyday life is determined not by alarm clocks, employers, or appointments, but by hours of sunshine, weather, and plants. He realized as a teenager that he desired a completely different life than the majority of society. He describes his initial ideas as blurry. “But I remained true to myself and found my way over time,” says a content Sonnemann.

Königsfarm offers him the opportunity to unfold freely and shape the land according to his wishes. Sonnemann uses his land to preserve and multiply old and rare plant seeds. They were long less of a commercial commodity and more of family heirlooms: locally obtained and adapted to the local conditions.

Therefore, Sonnemann is all the more bothered by the industrialization of this sector. “It has nothing to do with the original contract between humans and plants anymore,” he criticizes. In addition, diversity has been lost.

Reviving the Diversity of Bygone Eras

In Sonnemann’s portfolio, one can find, for example, old regional varieties like the Old Hunsrück Swiss chard. “It has good winter hardiness,” says the seed gardener about its greatest advantage. He has also established the Huacatay from Bolivia here as a useful plant or conducted variety development work with an old American starch maize. For this, he works with cosmic rhythms according to Georg W. Schmidt, in addition to the local conditions.

At the beginning of his work, he learned a lot from other seed gardeners like Ludwig Watschong and now passes on his knowledge. For example, only a few can clean the seeds with a vibrating sieve. “In the past, I sat there for days, now it’s relatively quick,” says Sonnemann. Machines may do it faster, but they are more expensive – and he does not want things like loans.

Sonnemann looks back on the first few years as particularly austere. “Much was trial and error,” he says about the early days, which also applied to house construction. It was important to him to shape the land as part of nature. “I learned early on to live with little,” he says. However, he has been dealing with plant knowledge and gardening since his youth and has learned a lot in three decades. With Mutter Earth Seeds, he has now founded a company to sell the seeds. He wants to part with his old profession, says Sonnemann. But his goal remains: “To bring back the diversity of bygone eras into the gardens.”

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