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The seedlings at the Very Smallholding are finally beginning to sprout, my lack of success so far being mainly that I hadn’t got around to planting things. The nice new clay starter pots are my replacement for the self-made newspaper pots I’d used for the last few years. Simple but effective greenhouse made by Grandma after she got fed up of me whining that my cold frame had collapsed.

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Notice carefully placed watering can to make photo of plastic sheet into art.

Beautiful Wife was out for the morning and I took the chance to get to the garden and cut some of the more rapidly growing weeds while the sun was shining. This done I stopped for a break in the shadow of the big cherry tree before riding home for lunch. The birds were singing, the garden was looking almost tidy after a session with the shears, and all was well with my world.

Then my phone buzzed: Beautiful Wife was calling to ask how the salad preparation was going.

That would be the salad* that Beautiful Wife had asked me to make this morning, which I’d forgotten about and was currently in kit form, in the fridge, in our kitchen. Where I rather crucially wasn’t.

Saying “I forgot and I’m in the garden” wasn’t going to be a good move.

Beautiful Wife told me she’d be home in fifteen minutes and hung up happily.

I threw the tools in the shed, grabbed coat, fleece, spare boots and water bottle and shoved them into the Xtracycle, set off, swore, came back and locked the gate, set off again, and climbed up the track to the road in about forty seconds, and crested the summit of the hill in time to annoy a driver who apparently thought that cyclists should give him priority at all times, raced down the long hill and back up the other side, joined the main road between cars, shot through the town centre, down the back streets and home, left everything on the Xtracycle, ran up the stairs and started throwing salad into the sink.

By the time Beautiful Wife came back I was pretending to nonchalantly cut radishes.

 *Salads being the only thing I’m allowed to make after the last experience with my cooking.

We took advantage of the good weather, lack of rain, slight reduction in the rain to go on a bike ride this afternoon with the boys because three growing lads in a tiny apartment is a powder keg by about ten in the morning. We visited a couple of local farms where the farmers don’t mind you making friends with the animals as long as you don’t complain when they try and eat your boots, and the boys had a great time watching some cows eating lunch, a horse being attached to a buggy, (Not as unusual here as you’d expect) and having their shoes attacked by goats, before we rolled back down the hill to pick up a bag of compost and check the seedlings in the garden.

This was not propaganda to make the boys enthusiastic about trying this ourselves one day.

I hope that’s clear.

They want chickens, cows and goats.

The lack of posts over the last weeks have not just been due to yet more exams rolling in, and the tax office deciding that I’d taken on an extra and lucrative freelance job and needed to tell them how much I was earning, which was news to me: I don’t have the time for an lucrative freelance job with a forty hour week plus studying and family.

Apart from this, if I did have a lucrative freelance job I probably wouldn’t be spending those forty hours a week feeding chipboard into machines for pocket money.

No, the lack of posting is because I’ve managed to lose the cable for the camera and therefore can’t delight you with pictures of my adventures in south Germany. It turns out that absent mindedly putting the cable on the nearest available surface when I’ve finished with it, isn’t a good long term strategy (see also: gloves, hats, cellphones, forks, etc) The only reason this doesn’t happen with the bikes is because they’re too big to put something on top of them by accident. I’ve got a couple of things to write about but without pictures they’d be a bit boring.

Normal service will be resumed soon. When I find the cable…

You are driving downhill on a narrow road and are faced with a gap that is currently occupied by a heavy truck struggling up the steep hill. Do you:

1: Wait for the truck to drive past.

2: Drive into the gap in the confident expectation that said truck will magically vanish.

Eventually the driver realised that this wasn’t going to work and got out of the way.

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Eldest Son goes to a school some distance away, which is a perfectly normal here: schools tend to be far enough away that children are sent off on their bikes or public transport to get there. This is a great thing, of course, because they gain independence and experience navigating the real world without parents (except when they are brought to school in Mummy’s SUV, of course, but there’s always one).

During school hours, there is a direct tram from the next town to a stop just across the road from the school. Unfortunately this useful service goes off to bed at about six, because grownup people don’t need public transport, obviously. So if there is a parent’s evening at the school, we need to get on a tram into the city, change to another tram back out of the city, change again, go one stop, and change a final time for the last bit of the journey to the stop for eldest son’s school. This seemed a little pointless, especially as the last change involved waiting for ten minutes for a tram journey that lasted exactly fifty-seven seconds, so this time I took my bike.

Whereupon the clouds above delivered rain in large quantities.

Thankfully the bike storage at the school is covered, so the saddle didn’t get wet*, and I met another cycling parent who showed me a way through the black hole of fast roads and contraflows in one of the lesser suburbs of Stuttgart, so we got home quicker than I’d have managed by tram. I used the extra time drying off clothes, but never mind. It’ll be dry next time. Hopefully.

*The main concern of a Brooks user when it rains: ‘Must keep the saddle dry.’ The madness is catching, I tell you…

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Now it is officially spring again, the cyclists are coming out of hibernation. The Xtracycle and I spotted this classy looking bike at a local metro stop.

Having more cyclists is a great idea in theory, as long as they remember they aren’t driving their car down the Autobahn and expect everyone to jump out of the way.

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With the bed making project taking far longer than expected I’m well behind with planting in the Very Smallholding, and it doesn’t help that we seem to have hot weekdays and then rain each weekend. I’ve done a fair bit of preparation, which in our garden means beating down the brambles and other mutant fauna until you can actually see the ground, and today was supposed to be the glorious day of planting the first seeds. Ah well, at least the ground will be soft enough to dig into, and I can do some work on the pallet garden as well.

I’m actually feeling pretty smug about my bramble elimination this year, having managed to smash several bushes large enough that they hid entire trees. It turns out that having a sharp blade on the scythe really does make a difference. Apart from that, look at all the space we have now. The picture at the top of the blog is almost the same as this view, after it had some attention from a scythe and two chainsaw wielding maniacs. Those little bits of wood in the distance are the circle of logs that make up the throne room.

The remains of the brambles were made into a bonfire along with lots of broken bits of wood, large amounts of cardboard that had somehow migrated from the apartment, and about twenty matches. In a fit of optimism brought on by apparent progress, burning stuff and the sight of someone more competent than I making a large building project look easy, I contacted my housebuilding friend to enlist his help in rebuilding the former privvy into something that doesn’t have leaks in the roof, walls and door.

This may be a challenge, especially if the rain doesn’t leave off.

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While working in the Very Smallholding this week, I noticed lots of small plants growing in the middle of the Throne Room, in a space which last year was taken up almost entirely by brambles and one very horizontal tree. Spring is coming, full of the life and growth. This is all very well, but I’m way behind on planting, or in fact getting ready for planting, and judging by the mess in the picture, tidying the place up generally.

Probably should stop taking pretty pictures and do some more digging.

There is a lot going on other than wandering about in the garden and taking pretty pictures of the plants, I just can’t blog about it just yet. I’ll get back to you on that when I can…

Eighteen months of cycling to the bus stop has taught me I need fifteen minutes for a relaxed ride, ten at speed, and about seven and a half when I forget my wallet and have to go back and get it. The bus leaves the next village at 0635, so I aim to set off by 0620.

How I expected to catch the bus on Wednesday after leaving home at half past six I’m not sure.

On arriving I cunningly worked out that I’d failed in this by the empty bus shelter and clock showing it was 0640. meaning I had to cycle to the railway station, five kilometres away from our village, and 200m lower, and the other end of a busy road. I’m a fairly experienced cyclist, I know how cars usually react and I know the road. The weather was dry and visibility clear. What could possibly go wrong?

Apart from, say, falling off at high speed and being run over by an SUV.

With this comforting thought I went through the traffic lights and dropped off the end of the world. There were a couple of interesting moments like the point the street lights stopped and we plunged into darkness on a sharp bend with a drop on the left hand side of the road. Fortunately a helpful driver assisted by driving close enough to my back wheel that he lit the road ahead of me. Stopping for traffic lights was interesting and my bottle dynamo will never be the same again, but I made it in plenty of time, and the bike was still in the bike shed -with wheels- when I came back in the afternoon.

I doubt I’ll make a habit of this as the ‘ride’ back took almost an hour of climbing via a road cycle-cross riders would reject out of hand, getting lost in a strange  isolated housing estate with a thousand identical houses and crossing a seriously muddy field.

On the other hand, I could look smug when the students who commuted by car came in late, again.

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