The City Farm has a Kindergarten, where the children spend about 80% of the time outdoors playing in the woods and the farm. Last week they decided they needed a ladder so I helped them build one. I’d never built a ladder before but as far as I know it hasn’t fallen down yet.

Yesterday morning on the way to do the Sunday feeding rounds, I found myself in a tram carriage almost entirely full of local Eritreans wearing white clothes, from a large priest complete with hat and wooden cross in his hand, several old ladies with headscarves and a lot of younger guys including one who was compromising the dress code by wearing a white racing jacket. They were all talking in Eritrean and clearly having a great time.

There’s something infectious about being with fifty people laughing and enjoying themselves in a language you can’t understand. It quite cheered me up and made for a great start to a day chasing animals around the farm.

I’m glad I met them on the way in, on the return I may have been a bit nervous about getting my grubby farm clothes too near their Sunday best…

TonyTheGoatThis was supposed to be a vaguely funny post about how we have a goat at the farm called Tony, which by coincidence is the name of a friend who writes a very entertaining blog called Tales From The Rock about his life smallholding in Wales. Tony of the Rock is probably responsible for getting me into working here in the first place, and has consistently told me to avoid keeping goats.

Unfortunately just after I took this picture, Tony the Goat was found standing stock still and staring into space, ignoring all attempts to move him. Even giving him his favourite elderflower leaves elicited no more than a half-hearted nibble. He stayed stock still while I cleaned out his pen, which is usually a hazardous occupation, and later we found him lying on his side, having made a small but very runny poo, in contrast to the shotgun pellets he usually gives me to sweep up.

Tony of the Rock will have already recognised what he calls UXG: unexploded goat syndrome, or to give it its scientific name, Entrotoximia, where the rumen in a goat’s stomach turns acidic, the natural bacteria which normally help digestion eat at the stomach walls. What we don’t understand is how this happened, when Tony and his two friends haven’t been outside of their run in a few weeks.

Tony the Goat didn’t make the night: all that I found when I went to work the next day was the little blue collar we used when the children took him for a walk.

Children learn lots on the farm: some lessons are harder than others.



Early morning at the farm, the animals have been fed, poo cleared and the Kindergarten children have gone for breakfast.

I should be doing things like tidying up that hay, not loafing about taking pictures…

downdown_01I think I’ve got the ride to work sorted out, apart from a couple of little hiccups we won’t mention like the Xtracycle’s rear gear cable snapping on the one place where I have to ride uphill in traffic*.

I’d originally planned to use the tram for most of the route between our village and the farm, with a bike at both ends to cover the first and last bit, but apart from the security issue, Stuttgart’s tram system mostly goes from the edge to the centre, whereas I wanted to go from one suburb to another, and those trams ran only occasionally, usually before or after I wanted to travel, and often thirty seconds before I got to the station.

After an embarrassingly long time riding into Stuttgart and back out again, it finally occurred to me that I was travelling off-peak in both directions, so I could carry my Xtracycle on the tram for free (British public transport providers take note: this is possible without the sky falling). Now I cycle to the local tram stop, ride the tram to the highest part of the route, which rather conveniently is the last station before it goes down into Stuttgart, and ride the rest of the way. Coming back I catch any Stuttgart-bound tram on the other line, hop off again near the top of the hill, and pootle back through the forest. No bikes are left to the predations of local vandals, and I get to ride the Xtracycle. Everyone wins.

Until it snows, but let’s not worry about that yet.

*It turns out that with some pliers and a lot of swearing I can -just- get a normal, standard-length back gear cable to fit on an Xtracycle. I’m probably the last Xtracycle user to find this out, but I put it out there anyway.


During school time the Farm is open Tuesday-Saturday, so from this week my weekend starts tomorrow. Normal blogging servce will be resumed then, with tales of cycle commuting, tractors, goats and flying gates.

In the meantime, and in an effort to keep the blog on subject, here is a picture of the Xtracyle fitting into a bus.


Arriving at work: gate open, children chasing goats, goats chasing children, geese vanished, big pile of poo to deal with.


So, here’s the new office, looking appropriately like a hangout for tree hugging hippies.

I was asked to start work a day earlier than expected, because the person in the workshop wanted to ‘show me around’ before he went on holiday. What he didn’t add was “And then you’ll be looking after the workshop for two weeks.”


During the holidays anyone can come and make whatever they want, so I’ve helped build pencil holders, several ‘boats’ including a galleon, a yacht, and enough pirate ships to lay siege to a small island; three hobby horses, a waste paper basket, lots of swords and a dozen animal shaped bits of wood including this family of elephants destined to be a set of bookends. When I wasn’t doing that I was sharpening blunt chisels and planes and making sure nobody injured themselves in a permanent manner.

To make sure I didn’t cause too many disasters I was teamed up with a ‘summer worker’ who turned out to be highly competent with children, and sewing, fortunately, otherwise all those ships would have been without sails. I got on with the woodwork, using the bigger machines and dealing with requests like “I want a rudder on the ship connected to a steering wheel at the front so that when I turn the wheel the rudder steers the ship”

Next week the farm is closed while we all recover, tidy up after the summer, and the new staff get basic some basic training on how not to get bitten by angry goats and other essentials. If I’m good, they say I’ll be allowed to drive the tractor:


I’m told there are lots of other things to learn about running a farm. Not sure what those might be…


A friend asked me how I managed to commute to the farm and back, given my strange car-free habits. I explained about my original cunning plan, and his face lit up.

“You mean you leave the Xtracycle at the tram stop all day? One set of bolt croppers and I’ve got a new bike…”

This is why I use a bike pulled off a scrap pile…

My original idea for commuting to the farm was to have a bike at each end of the tram journey, cycle to the the local tram station, ride the tram across town, and pick up another bike to cover the last bit to the farm. This sounded great when I worked it out, but in practice there’s all kinds of problems, mainly that it relies on me being able to finish work, sweep the workshop, clean the privvy, unlock the bike, ride to a house within dashing distance of the station, lock the bike again, and leg it to the tram stop to meet the tram.

You will not be surprised to find this doesn’t work very well.

Of the three direct trams back from the farm, the first is long gone before I’m finished, the second usually leaves the station just as I come sprinting around the corner, and the next is far too late. If I even miss that one, we enter the twilight zone, that period the powers that be have decreed to be Off Peak, when no-one needs to travel, so the wait until the next connection is best measured with a calendar.

There are other trams, but they involve travelling into Stuttgart, changing and coming back out again. Either way I end up doubling the journey time. I know this because I missed the tram every evening so far.

So now I’ve come up with Cunning Plan 2.1. I can take a bike on the tram off-peak, and the farm opens mid-morning, so I can ride to the station at this end, carry the bike on the tram, ride to the farm, and then in the evening simply cycle home, thus saving all kinds of frustration. It would also mean I can use the Xtracycle, which solves the problem of the disintegrating panniers.

Spend enough time sitting on random tram stations and this sort of thing becomes interesting…

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