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Last week we all went on the annual farm outing, which meant we came to work early and rushed about feeding the animals in the morning so we could drive about an hour to go and look at someone else’s animals.



Admittedly they were a bit different to ours.

Unfortunately to begin with we were accompanied by a ‘Wilderness Guide’ whose main goal seemed to be to make us play silly games instead of showing us around: seriously, what is the point of ‘team building games’? I’ve worked with several teams, good and bad, and I doubt any of the rubbish ones would have improved by making us stand on a piece of wood in a field for half an hour pretending to cross a ‘river’.

I long ago realised all games work on the assumption that you want to win, so if possible I ‘fall’ into the ‘river’ or allow myself to be ‘caught’ by the ‘lion’ as quickly as I can so I can sit the rest of the game out*.

Finally our ‘guide’ finally shoved off disappeared mysteriously into the wilderness in his 4×4, and we got on with watching animals.



Sure, Mr. Bear looks cute, but the bars around his enclosure were massive.


Watching these animals being fed was interesting and informative in all the ways our ‘guide’ wasn’t, and we learned, amongst other things, that there is a male lynx not far from Stuttgart looking for love, but he’ll have to look pretty hard as the nearest female lynx is in Switzerland, that the fences on the wolves enclosure are not really needed because they don’t attack humans, and that the first confirmed sighting of a wolf in the region was made a few months ago. Unfortunately the wolf in question had been killed by a car on the main Autobahn from Basel to Karlsruhe, but we know they are on their way, and once here they’re protected by law** and should thrive.

While we were looking the other way, someone else was getting a meal too.


We finished the day watching the birds of prey.


Several of the team now favour vultures as the next animal for the farm.

*In this case not even pretending to run away was perhaps a bit too obvious.

**Except from bad drivers…


I’ve been working on a project with some artists to build a stage in our town square for a big celebration this weekend. The idea was that it could stand alone as a piece of sculpture when there are no performances, and I think they asked me because they thought that being a carpenter with a background in theatre I’d know what I was doing. Thankfully I managed to finish the project without anyone realising otherwise, and was able to get to know a few of the local artists into the bargain.

The stage is a bit more complete now but I was too exhausted to get a decent picture. I’ll take one when we go to the performances.

A few weeks back, Tony from The Rock, who writes a very entertaining blog about the smallholding his family shares with several dozen assorted animals, posted a photo of a new mug which expressed his love of cycling. I made a positive comment, and thought no more about it.

Then a couple of days ago, a parcel arrived in the post, which turned out to be a cycling magazine, and my own mug…




And to avoid it ‘wandering’ in our rather large family, he even got me a personalised version…

Many thanks Tony, that cheered me up no end…

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.

…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…

I had a couple of posts lined up to write about on Friday, when my computer threw a sulk and refused to respond to anything. It claims this is because of an error in the hard drive, but it happened a mere few days after I got a smart phone for work.

This is not a coincidence.

As I am unable to understand, much less repair anything that requires more finesse than hitting it with a hammer,  I sent a cry for help to my incredibly patient computer tech friend.

He assures me it is fixable, which would be nice, as my laptop is my main tool for translating.

So, normal service will be resumed as soon a possible.


…one Tiny Person. Beautiful Wife and myself had a lift to the local hospital* this afternoon, and we are now waiting for the smaller person to make their mind up about coming, or not. From past experience, there will be a long wait until the baby decides they want to come now and then things happen very quickly, so although I’ve been sent off home, the phone is staying close by.

I’ve been offered lifts by various kind people, but I reckon that by the time I get to their home, wake them up, they get ready and we can drive off, I’d be halfway to the hospital, so it will be a nighttime Xtracycle ride at some point probably early in the morning.

*Beautiful Wife having rejected suggestions that she ride herself or be carried by Bakfiets: I can’t think why…


I always find the whole business of Christmas presents rather stressful. Finding the ‘right’ present for people is fraught with difficulties and seems to be missing the point in any case.

A few years back Beautiful Wife and I decided it was much simpler to tell each other exactly what we’d like for Christmas and then leave it at that, and this year she requested a Cajon bass tube to annoy the neighbours with, while I asked for two new woodworking chisels. My parents have also adopted this system and very kindly bought me a  brass bell from Lionworks in the UK, photographed (badly) above.

Presents for three boys are less stressful: lots of Lego. Of course I had to spend the afternoon building things with them.

It’s a tough life.

How was your Christmas?

Sometimes it feels like the Very Smallholding is fighting back.

I’d managed to get the remains of the cherry tree to ground level without damaging anything, and I’d found a friend with a wood stove and importantly, a chainsaw, who came to cut and haul them out. While he was there we decided to remove a branch from a plum tree on the other side of the property: it was healthy enough but growing into our neighbours airspace, and it is Not Done to allow your tree to extend over the property line.

If we let the branch fall where it was, it would land on the fence, so we hooked a rope around the offending offshoot and two of us pulled on this while the third climbed up a ladder and applied the chainsaw. The idea being that as it fell we’d pull it clear of the fence and onto a patch of nice empty grass.

The moment came: there was a cracking noise, we pulled on the rope, the branch bounced off the fence, landed on the cut end, bounced up and tipped over on me. As the world filled with foliage I received a text message from Beautiful Wife asking how we were doing.

 I told her I’d been attacked by a plum tree.

She didn’t laugh. Much.


It was a warm day, so a couple of the class decided to go and get chocolate ice cream for everyone.

This sort of thing didn’t ever happen at my school in the UK, but there were many offers to flush your head down the toilet or throw your shoes on the roof: school just isn’t like it used to be.

Thank goodness.

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