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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…

 
Bikemug

 

Bikemug2

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.

calmvorstorm

…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…

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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.

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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.

Or: Advantages of being a carpenter #1: Christmas presents are easy.

Candle 01

Our local Christmas market is full of “hand crafted” wooden ornaments and utensils, some of which I realised I can now make myself, so last week I spent a couple of hours in our workshop sorting our our Christmas presents for this year.

The wood came from the pile of ‘waste’ beech wood that was left over after we made our first project a few weeks ago. It had knot holes or splits and as such was destined to be burnt, but now it is a lot of interestingly shaped tea light holders and I don’t have to worry about what I’ll get people for Christmas.

Anyway, about the Elm.

In college, we’re all supposed to get a piece of wood and do a small presentation on it. I was away on the day the varieties were given out which I think is why I got Elm. Elm is pretty hard to find in Germany since many were killed by disease, but as far as I know it is a little bit easier to get a hold of in the UK and USA.

If anyone is willing to send me a piece of Elm (of any variety) by the tenth of January, I’d be more than happy to swap it for a tea light holder, made in a genuine German workshop by a genuine British apprentice using sustainable beechwood.

The brief asks for a piece of Elm wood 24cm by 16cm by 5cm (about 10 in by 6 in by 2in) but given that the chances of getting hold of anything at all is pretty slim, the school isn’t going to be fussy about the dimensions.

Any offers, let me know in the comments or the contact form and I’ll email you.

Just over a fortnight ago we quietly passed the eighth anniversary of our moving to Ostfildern, so I’ve now lived here sixteen days longer than I lived anywhere else.

People occasionally ask us if we’ll ever move back ‘home’, meaning the UK. This rather misses the point that Beautiful Wife is Japanese, and even if we decided to go to the UK, it isn’t like we’ve got roots in a certain place anyway. Theoretically our family name comes from Wales but I think we’d have to go back a few hundred years to find that connection, and at that time the other side of the family was apparently living in Dundee with a German name, so it looks like we’ve a long tradition of making things complicated.

I occasionally have daydreams about moving to Wales or Scotland and living off grid, but unless we have a total collapse of the Euro or fall off the end of the Mayan calender, our boys have a much better chance of getting a decent education if we stay in Germany. And as much as I whine about it, our cycle provision and public transport is far ahead of anything in the Motherland, even here in Mercedesville.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really have a ‘home’ in the normal sense. And that I’ve probably spent far too long thinking about it.

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