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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.



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.


Continuing our tour around the farm, this is ‘Stovehenge’, a collection of ancient wood burning stoves used for cooking projects, experiments,* and occasional knife making on the portable forge.

One day this will really confuse an archaeologist…

*Like “What happens when we throw shovelfuls of sawdust onto the fire?”

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…

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