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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With world-class cycle facilities like this, you wonder why there aren’t more cyclists around…

Ecologically sound bike parking in Stuttgart centre.

One of the many phrases my dear mother had to say, several times each morning.

Well, now I did. It took several more months than I’d like*, but finally, the bed for Youngest Son is finished, meaning that he no longer has to sleep on the floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did learn a massive amount about working with real wood, not least that modern woodworking machines aren’t really made for this, so sometimes hand saws, mallet and chisels really do work better, with the added advantage that they don’t suddenly turn themselves on and nearly remove the ends of your fingers.

On the other hand, it was quite disturbing how little advice was available apart from ‘use the machines’: very few of the very experienced carpenters I work with have ever made a join like this, so I had to spend a fair bit of time working stuff out for myself. I did wonder at times if I should have made a few practice joins instead of just leaping in and promising a bed, but the idea of being dragged off to get a bed from a furniture shop provided powerful motivation for not giving up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The joins looked pretty rough in places, but it is amazing what a bit of sandpaper can do. I used this method because we’ll need to take the bed apart again if/when we move house, and ‘normal’ joins wouldn’t allow for that. Besides, I wasn’t convinced I’d get the cuts perfect so the wedges would hide my mistakes allow for some adjustment. Because I was using joins no-one locally had apparently attempted in living memory there was a question of how they would stand up to regular use, but after a week of being a bed/trampoline/climbing frame, the frame hasn’t shown any sign of wobbling or squeaking.

I brought the bed home on the Bakfiets, which only added to the strange eco-warrior/treehugger/village idiot image but which worked perfectly well except that I completely failed to take a picture.

Now I’m getting all manner of suggestions for future projects, and I’ll make a start on some of them as soon as the garden has received some attention, and I’ve fixed the headlight for Beautiful Wife’s bike, and done all the other extra jobs no-one tells you about when you read books on ‘living simply’…

*This will not surprise my parents either , from memories of how long it took me to do anything when I lived at home…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Found a shortcut through the forest between us and the next town. This has the advantage that we cross over the busy arterial road into Stuttgart on this bridge rather than having to zigzag through traffic lights.

Having grown up in the UK, the ability to travel cross country without using a major road still feels like a luxury..

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Contact me

Archives

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers