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Interesting as my current training may be, I am getting  bit fed up of sitting in lectures and writing stuff for exams, so it was a relief to be allowed outside to play complete a practical project.

The brief from the college was to go and find an organisation working with people with disabilities and ask if they need anything to help clients take part in the activities. I went with three other students to the city farm where I worked for eight months, who decided that what they’d like was wheelchair friendly entrance for the rabbit pen. “Wheelchair friendly” being defined as possible to just a wheelchair in and out without having to pull bolts or turn handles, in both directions, but without the rabbits escaping n the process.

The contraption above is what we came up with. As a wheelchair goes up the ramp and onto the platform, the weight presses the planks down, releasing the catch by the gate. The wheelchair can push through the gate which is hanging on those nifty sprung hinges you find on saloon doors in western movies, and when the wheelchair has gone through the gate swings shut, the platform springs up again thanks to two inflated wheelbarrow inner tubes hidden underneath, the door latches shut, and the rabbits are kept safely inside.

The plan was for the platform to be about ground level but we discovered the foundations to what looks like an artillery position right where we wanted to dig it out so it ended up rather higher. The ramp and barrier are by way of emergency solutions.

So far it seems to work. The gate opens and closes,  mass rabbit breakouts have been avoided.

The long drawn out and very boring process of getting German citizenship I’ve described before is continuing: we’ve had a request for a rather large amount of money and more copies of the documents we had to copy earlier. We have to take them to an office at some unspecified point in the future, so we are hoping this means we are coming towards the end of that one. Of course this means chasing different government offices who move at the usual speed of government offices everywhere…

Exams continue: you’ve all experienced them and they are as fun and exciting as way back when, so I don’t need to go on about that…

On the other hand I’ve got a project week this week, which means I can start a bit later and get to make stuff and call it work. My group has to make and design a gate that will open for a wheelchair without the user needing to undo a bolt or turn a handle, and close securely after they have gone through. This last bit is important because we are back at the city farm I worked at a couple of years ago, and the gate goes to the rabbit pen.

On top of this the weather is good at the moment and I can ride the Xtracycle to the farm, and not get muddy in the process, which reduces a lot of the potential grumpiness…


We take it in turn to feed and generally look after the animals on Sundays. I was a bit late this week and by the time I got there the sheep had started getting organised and were complaining bitterly at the poor quality of service. Their self-appointed leader, Frieda (don’t ask me, I just work here) is seen here demanding extra hay, mash, and free use of the horse paddock.

Once food arrived they lost all pretence at solidarity and started fighting each other for extra shares.

The farm has a ‘general’ kitchen used for all kinds of activities and one commercial kitchen used for preparing food for the homework club. which has to fulfill all kinds of rules and regulations. In particular, it should have a paper towel and soap dispenser: apparently failure to have one of these can cause an outbreak of biblical-quality plagues and the arrival of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (carrying a nasty letter from the Hygiene Department).

Of course we could buy a dispenser, but that would be boring and would require us to actually spend money, so the boss told me to “have a look and see what you think would work”.

I got together with some of the kids in the workshop*, and we made this.


I hadn’t done this sort of thing since I was officially signed off sick from my apprenticeship a year ago, and the space I had to fit the thing was squeezed between the wash basin and a fuse box**. I distinctly saw a spark come out of a hole I was drilling at one point but the cook is a former electrician and he assured me that if I had hit a live wire the resulting sparks would have reached halfway across the kitchen, so we carried on and I managed not to look too surprised when it fitted first time.


The piggy was made by incredibly competent student and former fashion designer M, who spent six weeks simultaneously putting up with me and the children, and somehow organising our chaotic workshop ‘when she had time’. Unfortunately she has since left the farm to complete her training as a kindergarten teacher.

There were mutterings that having a little pig in a strictly vegetarian kitchen is at least somewhat ironic, but we liked it, so there.

*We’re always encouraged to do this so the children can learn alongside us, make something for other people, et c. It also means that if we make a mistake, we can say ‘It was a learning project’…

**Germans seem to take a rather robust approach to electricity and water in close proximity. The same approach applies here to children and animals,  tall climbing frames, and sharp objects.


On Wednesday I was working on the band saw at work, and managed to put my finger a little close to the blade. It wasn’t a big cut, mainly because I’d actually turned the saw off before reaching for the piece of wood I was cutting*, so it was only running on momentum, but this didn’t stop the children in the workshop running about the farm shouting “Andy cut his finger off” at the top of their voices.

While the children made sure everyone knew what had, or rather hadn’t happened, I got a lift with the Farm Manager (who gets the “quote of the day” award for her response to my apology for getting Sawdust in her nice clean car: “Last time it was a dead goat, an injured carpenter is a step up…”).  We went to the local doctor’s surgery, which was closed, and trailed through the traffic for the best part of an hour to a surgery in the next town but one, where they looked at the cut and decided there was no bone or nerve damage, and all I needed was stitches. They then wrapped up my entire finger in the most dramatic bandage I’ve ever seen, which made it look like I had managed to remove a digit and the bandage was the only thing holding it on, and making sure I have the rest of the week off, because I can’t operate machinery or wear gloves.

Which means I have to stay at home & play with The Boys and Beautiful Daughter.

It’s tough, but I’ll survive.

*I’m dozy, but not that dozy…


We’re organised. We know where everything is. No, really…


Frieda the sheep is not a Morning Person.

I’ve been asked by some readers to put up more pictures of the tractor I’ve been driving around at the farm. The rest of you probably will want to look away now:


Thanks to some very obscure German-language websites and a lack of a social life I now know that this is a Fendt Farmer 200s, built around 1983 and apparently revolutionary for its time. To quote one website, the 200s “Brought the luxury of large tractors to their smaller cousins”.

These luxuries include a padded seat and what we euphemistically call ‘air conditioning’*. It was also one of the first small tractors in Germany to come with four gears.

They are labelled “One, Two, Three, Fast”…



It also has a lockable glove compartment, and that indispensible accessory for the modern farmer, a cup holder:


Since I reattached the lever to the steering column using several washers and a lot of swearing we even have indicators. Not sure what even the most enthusiastic salesman made of those gaps in the floor though: “Integral Drainage Holes” perhaps:


In common with a lot of German tractors there is passenger seating on each side of the driver, much loved by the children at the farm (seatbelts? who needs seatbelts?);


It also has a speedometer. Possibly the most complex speedometer ever made, in fact. To read it I’d have to remember which gear ratio we are using: ‘low’ (red numbers) or ‘high’ (Black numbers**), and which gear I’m in and read off the table at the bottom:


As the speedometer is broken and shows this reading if the engine is on or off, and the brakes are largely advisory, it is probably just as well that the top speed is 23 Km/h or 14 mph, downhill, with a tailwind.

*Better known as ‘leaving the windscreen up’: ‘luxury’ at the time was having a windscreen at all…
**Or possibly the other way round.


View from the kitchen window after the morning rounds, with Sarah the pony in the foreground. She may look like a cute little pony but she has an attitude.


We have an infestation of wheelbarrows on the farm. I’ve started checking these every week to keep the tyres inflated because otherwise moving a wheelbarrow full of horse poo involves much swearing.

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