I’m getting behind on the gift making project; I’ve missed at least two birthdays and am trying to catch up this week. It turns out that making presents is often a lot more time consuming than buying them.

Being a smug, tree-hugging hippy can be harder than people think.

On the other hand, I am getting faster at making things like this. My first spoon took several days, then the next took two mornings, and this one took a couple of hours, most of which was figuring out how to clamp an ever decreasing amount of wood so I could get at it with a chisel.

Anyway, it is now oiled and drying, so I can get on with the next present.

Remind me how living simply and making stuff is supposed to be a more relaxed way to live?


So here’s what we are up to at the moment: messing about on bikes and generally being insufferably smug because I get normal school holidays and thus have two weeks to be with The Boys and Beautiful Daughter.

So normal blogging may be a bit sparse for a while.

I wanted some extra carrying capacity for transport in the city so I didn’t have to schlepp all my books and coursework on my back. I could use a pannier but I have been known to attach them the wrong way, whereupon they fell off, causing much embarrasment when I was called by a complete stranger and had to ride across the city to retrieve same. I figured this way I would have a secure way to carry my bag where I could see it, and I could look vaguely civilised when I carried my normal bag into the college.

The other reason was because I saw a French ‘Porteur’ rack on this excellent post by the Accidental Hermit and thought it looked cool. This is pretty much as logical as my decisions get I’m afraid.

Most porteur racks are welded steel or aluminium. Being utterly incompetent in metalwork I made the corners and joins from beechwood, which had the extra advantage of making the design approximately square without having to muck about with jigs and welding.

I wanted to be able to carry a bag large enough to hold an A4 ring binder. Looking at the rack now, I may have overdone this, but there we go.


Some improvisation was needed to get the rack to fit the new bent handlebars.

I’ll need to find a better way to keep things strapped down than a bungee chord and move the headlight will need moving as well as it currently lights up the deck and nothing else.

Will wait on those issues until I’ve tested the design for a week or two.

We had a public holiday this week and by mid morning, Youngest Son -who is apparently made of energy held in by elastic- was bouncing off the walls, so we went exploring.

Down the hill…

Across the river…

And past the harbour, with the sort of large machinery that small boys enjoy…


And off into Stuttgart, where we went to see my college, caught the rack railway up the hill again, and had so much fun we completely forgot to take any more pictures.

Ah, well.


I mentioned that I’d be taking the tram to college more often in future. This is a bit annoying as I’ve finally got the commuter bike working nicely, but cycling into Stuttgart is a steep learning curve.

Firstly there’s the scary hill of doom, the old road into Stuttgart now a residential street offering views across the city. I can get up on a rack railway, and very nice it is too, but going down a long steep hill is stressful enough without dealing with some of the drivers who I’m supposed to ‘share’ it with.

The route isn’t supposed to a through road, partly because it is narrow and there are several nice wide fast roads going the same way, but mostly, I suspect because the residents are wealthy enough to get what they want from the local government. This only deters the more law abiding drivers, leaving it as an unofficial rat run for the impatient entitled types who think they have a right to drive wherever they want, as fast as they want. Added to this the road is partly one way for cars but bidirectional for bikes, my least favourite kind of route because the ‘Bidirectional’ warning signs are tiny so drivers don’t see them and get upset when they see a bike coming towards them.

I’m getting better at the etiquette, but I’ll probably be cycling to a local station more often and taking the tram from there: some some drivers seem incapable of seeing those either, but at least in a tram/car collision the tram usually has the upper hand.

I had actually spent money on the commuter bike last week. I don’t generally do anything this rash but the route to college involves a drop of 207 metres (670  ft) in 1.7 kilometres (1 mile), so it seemed sensible to make sure the brakes would work, which meant replacing levers.

The brake levers and gear shifters are one big unit, so I had to replace these too. I cannot understand why you would combine two such complex items, but suspect it was to ensure customers have to spend far more money than really necessary.

In such ways do the powers that be maintain global capitalism.

Having fitted these expensive bits I mentioned to the local bike shop owner that my wrist was hurting when I ride. He suggested a new handlebar, but that was way beyond the budget for this month. On hearing this, he went and dug one out of his scrap pile and gave it me for nothing.

Now the wrist doesn’t hurt and the bike feels far more comfortable to ride.

Take that, Global Capitalists…

My goodness but aren’t cities noisy? Our college is right by the main road into Stuttgart and all you can hear when you open the window is endless traffic, horns honking and sirens. Quite why anyone would want to drive in Stuttgart is beyond me (or live there come to that, but that’s a different story).

Anyway, for various reasons I’ll probably take the tram into college in future, so yesterday I needed to change my season ticket. This was only a couple of stops away but I decided it would be quicker to cycle to the office rather than walk to the tram stop, wait for a tram, and then work out the way from the next stop. I found a route parallel to the main road/tram route, and set off.

At first, the roads had a slightly Parisian feel with tree-lined boulevards, and cafes, but as I got closer to the city I found more and more traffic until I had to cross a complex junction with traffic lights and a taxi trying to turn around in front of several cars. I’d looked on a map and it seemed I could cross over this lot and cut down a narrow street which would send me in generally the right direction on fairly quiet streets. Having wriggled between the various stuck cars, I spotted the street between two buildings and aimed there.

After a couple of seconds I realised that this street probably wasn’t on the usual tourist cycle routes. The flashy cars with lots of gold trim were the first clue, followed by the buildings with blacked-out windows, but it wasn’t until I saw the names of the businesses inside that I realised why they were blacked up.

We don’t have shops like that in our village, I can tell you.

I just concentrated on the road and got out of there…

The new college course began on Thursday, with two days of administrative business and the ridiculous waste of time called ‘getting to know you games’, which as usual were run by extroverts and endured by the introverts, and ensured that the introverts all clammed up and were less able to get to know people than if we’d been left alone.

On the plus side, this is a college course so we have similar holidays to the local schools -but with minimal coursework, because the tutors are aware that at least half of us have families and frankly we find them more fun than textbooks. We also have three months placement each year, as early as possible “because we figure you want to get out and do the job instead of learning theory”. In our course this lands straight after the summer holidays so we have about four months of theory, then four months of holidays and placements and four months of theory. Then repeat for year two.

The stuff we are learning looks good and as if it might actually be relevant to what we are supposed to be doing afterwards, which could be just about anything that involves training or therapy. Of course being me, I want to try everything…

Last minute preparations for starting college tomorrow included going to the local chain supermarket to get supplies. There I discovered to my horror that not only had they opened a cut price bakery in competition with our local company, but to make space for this they had stopped selling my favourite bagels, which were the only reason I’d come in the first place.

Now I’m bagel-less, and as I’m determined not to support the soulless chain bakery, I need an alternative for lunch at the college, preferably vegetarian that will last the morning without going dry or soggy, and keep me awake in the afternoons.

Oh, and simple to make in batches over the weekend to avoid disasters as I try to get it ready in the morning.

I’m good at coming up with ideas for most things, but not food. Any ideas?

From the ever interesting ‘No Tech Magazine‘:

“The German-made Carla Cargo is a three-wheeled cycle trailer with an electric assist motor. It can be pulled by any type of bicycle (including a cargo cycle or an electric bike), and it allows you to carry heavy (up to 150 kg) and bulky cargo (a loading platform of 60 x 160 cm). Uncoupled from the bicycle, the Carla Cargo works as a hand cart for large or heavy loads. The vehicle weighs 40 kg including the battery, and has a range of 40 to 60 km”

It turns out that the company is based in Freiburg, not too far from Stuttgart, but a million miles away in terms if cycling infrastructure.

More details and a picture of the bike with a recumbent tandem here:

Electrically Powered Bicycle Trailer & Hand Cart (DIY)

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