Coming back to our village this week, I came across a new bit of shared use pedestrian/cycle route that hadn’t looked like this two days earlier.

Nuroad_01

The previous surface had been getting rougher by the year, but even so I couldn’t help feeling there were other places they where this could have been more useful.

Cynical people would of course suggest that this wasn’t the point: it is March, and the surfacing budget must be spent before April the first.

Nuroad_02

Obviously there wasn’t that much left in the budget, as this is the other end, just at the bottom of a hill where a nice flat surface would be really welcome. If you are wondering how long the largesse lasted, the barn above is the same as the one in the previous picture.

Still, this is the second year running that the tarmac leftovers were used on this route, and at the current rate the whole way to the next village should be nice and smooth in about six years or so…

After living in a car focused town for so long, it comes as a shock to find genuine, well designed bike lanes just a few kilometres away.

Real_bike_lane_II

Bike lanes, no less, which go all the way along this side of the main road, inside of the parked cars and in to the centre of the town. I’m not sure why they look so shabby, in particular why someone decided to spend time and money scraping the red surface off at this point, as it was very much present further along (where I naturally forgot to take a photo). The blocked area is so drivers pulling out of side streets can see oncoming traffic without blocking the pavement and cycle lanes.

proper_bike_lane

Riding along it was a novel experience of knowing it was going where I needed to go, and not having to watch cars everywhere. It was also a shock not to have to dig out a map every five minutes to see where I was being taken next and how to avoid it.

lots_of_bikes

It also made a nice change not being the only wierdo on a bike.

VBP2

And thanks to the driver of this vehicle (under contract to the German Automobile Club, no less)* We can see that the cycle ways are not only direct, they are wide enough for two bikes to ride side by side, or for one truck to park.

*The nice people who sent us free Hi-vis vests a few years back.

There are days when I ride somewhere because it is the fastest way to get somewhere…

PD_06

…and days when I grit my teeth and tell myself over and over that it is good for me and the environment in the hope my smug green glow somehow has mystical weather-protecting qualities, and get home with a beard full of ice and shoes full of water.

PD_03
And there are days when everything comes together and the sun shines and the air is clear, and even though it is a long way to go and the temperatures are below freezing you couldn’t pay me enough to travel any other way…

PD_02
…so if you came here  for the ususal grumpiness, it has been delayed by good weather. Normal service will be resumed. Eventually…

Things normal people carry by bike: Books, laptops, shopping, small children…

 

Swedesaw

Things I end up carrying by bike: swede saws.

 There is a good reason for this, honest.

I was given a large piece of lime wood (D: Lindenholz) to hopefully convert into carved spoons and other items. The wood has to be split or it will be damaged as it dries, which meant hauling it to the garden and attacking it with an axe and heavy hammer, and hauling it back to the workshop to cut into smaller pieces for carving.

The problem with this plan was that it required your truly not to leave the swede saw in the garden. Which I promptly did, and had to collect it with the Xtracycle.

Mind you, I noticed that drivers gave me plenty of space…

(I’m still open to suggestions for garden planting…)

Suddenly it is March and almost too late to deal with the greatest challenge of the year. I’m not referring to the whole complex business of registering as unemployed, or even sorting out our tax returns, but of course the challenge of getting the garden ready for spring and deciding what to plant.

In the first season in the garden I planted out a variety of seeds directly into the ground, which considering the ground is basically solid clay and infested with slugs, worked remarkably well. The second year I read lots of instructions, prepared seedlings, manured the beds, et c, and achieved mixed success. I decided this was because I was trying too many things at once and went for simple last year: potatoes and onions with a few other random seeds that I found lurking about.

We put more spuddies into the ground than we got out and I think I managed to harvest one onion before they were chomped by slugs/mice/birds/trolls.

It didn’t help that I’m still pretty clueless and that I planted everything at about the same time, so the surviving plants reached maturity while we were in the UK, bolted, fell over and got eaten.

This year, I’ve decided on a different tack. I’m going to concentrate on three ‘bulk’ crops in the garden: a root crop, a bean variety, and… something else, possibly onions or leeks, or kale. With only three varieties to worry about, I can hopefully be a bit more certain of what needs doing and when, maybe even get to them before the Mice.

Being about as clueless as four years ago, I’m passing the question to the real gardeners out there: What three varieties would you recommend?* The garden is west-facing, so it gets very warm. Is there any way of avoiding a massive growth/bolt in August/September? Or, with the clay being the solidity it is, should I just give up and open a pottery instead?

*Let us discount Rhubarb, Celery, and Cauliflower: these are not vegetables but abominations.

Look: Blue sky...

Much excitement today: not only was the early morning ride actually conducted in daylight, but under blue sky and on a dry road. There were snowdrops, a lack of mud, and a red kite flying overhead.

Of course, as soon as I’d got over this, I remembered that this means the growing season will be upon us soon, and I don’t have the vegetable beds ready, or the seeds ordered, and I need to sort out the compost bin, and…

The weekend has been rather busy, in the good sense of being with great friends who you don’t see every day, an in some cases only see every couple of years, so there was very little cycling going on, except for the usual transporting lots of cakes and other essentials to where we were meeting, and of course picking up a family-sized pizza for the evening meal, but apart from that, not much cycling took place.

I can however report that apart from other practical uses, a Bakfiets is the perfect solution when we needed to move some small, severely jetlagged children from where they were staying to where we were feeding them.

I was hoping to be able to write about some cycling adventures, but now the flu is subsiding I’m trying to get all the paperwork done for various offices that need to have The Right Piece Of Paper to be convinced that I’ve finished the apprenticeship. They can’t do this until they have The Other Piece of Paper from a different office, who need The Correct Form filled out with Supporting Documents… I’m sure it is the same everywhere but I wonder if it is the German love of bureaucracy: it certainly keeps a lot of people in work.

It doesn’t help that I’m possibly the worst organised person in Germany. Today I had to go and get a fresh copy of some Very Important Forms which I’d neglected to send to another office on time and promptly lost. Mind you, that meant I got a ride across the fields in bright sunshine, when I’d otherwise have been stuck inside shuffling paperwork, so being disorganised has advantages.

Besides, I do try to be organised, it just seems to go wrong. All year I’d been carefully filing paperwork together in big ring binders and stacking them safely in the loft, and yesterday when I needed a specific form I knew exactly where it was.

Unfortunately this didn’t help when the loft hatch jammed shut.

Still, I knew where the form was, even if I couldn’t get to it. That’s an improvement, right?

…what was the question?

One thing I’ve learned is that in Germany, or at least this bit of it, there is pretty well no problem that can’t be cured with tea. Stomach ache, stiff joints, fevers, tiredness, stress, and acne can all apparently be dealt with using some concoction of dried fruits and flowers, and there are probably cures for hair loss and missing limbs.

With this background, it was inevitable, when a friend heard me wheezing like an elderly dwarf with a smoking habit, that they would present me with a bag of the local chemists special anti-cough herbal tea.

I’m a tree hugging hippy and quite happy to try and sort out ailments with moss and tree bark, especially as it means potentially sticking two fingers up at the big corporations. On the other hand, I’ve not found one of these teas yet that looks or tastes like anything more palatable than a pile of compost, and the last time we gave Beautiful Daughter a ‘natural’ remedy for her tummy ache the poor girl screamed the place down for about twelve hours, so I’m not entirely sold.

Anyway, this morning I opened the bag and found what looked like a mix of dried flowers and grass, put it in the ‘reusable’ tea bag, poured the water in, sieved the bits out after the reusable tea bag spewed them all over the place, and poured a cup.

Ignoring the colour, it wasn’t that bad. Will have to see how effective it is, but as I’ve about a gallon of the stuff to drink down, I think I’ll be able to say I gave it a fair chance…

Any other suggestions how to get rid of a cough?

More cycling related posts as soon as I can ride and breathe at the same time…

With my laptop mostly dead/sulking I figured the week would be spent productively doing all the things I usually avoid doing by working on the laptop. Even better, it was a holiday week, so I could do some woodwork with the boys, help Middle Son to fit new lights on his bike, etc.

Then I caught a cold: a slight sore throat, runny nose for a day or two and it subsided. I figured this was my more effective immune system: another victory for cycling…

Me and my big, smug mouth. Getting rid of that cold was rather like beating off a scouting party of the Mongol horde: it went to get reinforcements and attacked several of the family at once.

At the moment Beautiful Wife and me are both affected with fevers, aching joints and feeling generally bleargh. Whereas I have a small pharmacy next to my side of the bed, Beautiful Wife is still breastfeeding, so the only medicines she can take are so weak they aren’t worth taking in the first place and she has to suffer.  Strangely Beautiful Wife is still recovering faster and is almost back to normal, while my body seems to have given itself over to the production of snot and my brain can’t string two ideas together*. Beautiful Wife reckons this is because she’s a wife and a mother and wives and mothers can’t afford to get sick, whereas husbands know they can be a wuss and let their wife look after them.

I am man. Hear me sniffle.

*Although, that may not be the cold, of course…

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