In Hamburg, we build on our skills and open our minds 

I don’t know whether it’s the book I’m reading, or this workaway, but I feel like my life is changing. My perspectives, my beliefs, my misconceptions are all being challenged and are changing. I’m finding myself questioning things I’ve never before questioned and the behaviours I possess that I thought were innate (or something I was predisposed to) are shifting. It’s a good thing; a great thing. I’m learning a lot.

We came to this workaway for many reasons and I wasn’t sure about it when I first arrived – this time, we were living with the family all day every day, rather than just during the working day, and we’ve had to adjust to new routines, new behaviours and different attitudes. On top of that, we are living with 4 kids – refugees from Afghanistan who don’t speak German well, let alone English. We’ve learnt a lot about them in the short time we’ve been here and we’ve learnt a lot about Afghani culture and the current situation in what is a very troubled place.

I’ve found conversations challenging and engaging and the subjects covered diverse and interesting. The project is enjoyable and days go by quickly. We’ve built on our basic hen keeping skills to build a (luxurious) chicken coop for up to ten happy hens which I document the process behind below. In our free time, we have explored Hamburg and Buxtehude and learnt to navigate the ferry system to get us into the city. We’ve learnt about another way of life here and I’m falling more deeply in love with the outdoors.

The workaway has been challenging my confidence and behaviour. After feeling uncomfortable in my first week – trying too hard to please – Stuart told me to just be myself. I’m a habitual worrier and instinctively overcompensate for my awkwardness by trying to be the perfect guest and end up losing my personality, my quirks and what makes me individual. I need to trust in my human capabilities to be agreeable, kind and helpful. When there’s a dip in conversation, I don’t need to pipe up – it’s OK to enjoy the silence. I’m working on this.

The book I am reading, Feral, is changing my attitude towards nature, the environment, animals and my way of life. Conversations on the matter are creating interesting debates about what it is to be human and what we really need and what we really enjoy.

It’s making me enjoy being outdoors a lot more, and appreciate the varying birdsong, flora and fauna of the ecosystems we’re in.

Our time in Germany was interesting, an insight into Germany, India (our host was Indian), Afghanistan and parenting. Unlike our first spot, I didn’t fall in love, but it challenged me and that made it 100% worth it.


Where it all began – the legs



Building the floor (we managed to convince one of the boys we were actually just building a stage for him to dance on..ha ha ha)


One very complex wall to house the nesting boxes and the repurposed window
Attaching the walls to the base


Beginning the cladding (much as we tried to deter them, chipboard was chosen and we did what we could to waterproof it)
The roof was on and door was hung
Attaching the custom nesting boxes
A waterproof coating
The couple wanted it to blend in with the neighbouring barn, and our original ‘brick’ colour didn’t quite work…
So, we darkened it, and Stuart led his painting skills to some wonderful brick effect, and we completed the roof and the ladder for the hens to enter.

To say we’d never built something from scratch before, we did a pretty neat job. Also, if you’re interested in some faux bricks – Stu is your man!


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