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This is the bottom end of the Very Smallholding, after I attacked it with a scythe. If you look very, very carefully (or click on the picture for a bigger version) you can see the effects of the scything to the left hand side. When my arms can lift the scythe again I’ll try and hack a way to the base of those trees up the hill: letting all that fruit go to rot is just silly.

Because of all the trees this part of the garden is far more pleasant than the terrace on hot days, so this year I’d like to cover the cleared area so the brambles don’t get out again, so the space down here remains open and usable as a picnic area or something.

It would be even better if we could clear just a few of  those brambles off the hill, and make raked seating and a small performance space, using the area I’ve already cleared as a stage.

Of course for that to happen I really need to put steps on the hill, unless I want guests to slide down it, and I should probably get myself into gear making a decent on-site privvy.

Still, it’s a nice idea.

On the top of the hill, the vegetable garden is growing : the early potatoes have taken over the middle bed and the main crop has broken through the leaf mulch.

(see previous post to compare this to last month)

The pumpkins are beginning to grow. Slowly. Perhaps they need some coffee. Slug trap in the background.

On the main bed the seeds are growing well, if anonymously. (When labelling plants, use a waterproof pen). Notice highly artistic arangements of seed rows.

That’s definitely a bramble which I’m pretty sure wasn’t here yesterday. At least it’s the weekend, so I’ve lots of time to hoe the beds and work through the never ending jobs list.

Or maybe sit in the shade dreaming of Amphitheatres.


Trying to defy physics a couple of weeks ago by making support for the french beans that won’t collapse as soon as the wind blows, despite not having anything like enough poles to support it.

The supports are still standing and the garden has moved on a lot since. I really need to take some photographs.

It’s the slug hunting season, which means that I’m cycling over to the Very Smallholding every evening. This is fine when the sun is shining and the birds are singing but I’m less enthusiastic about it when the rain is coming down at a rate that would have put Noah off, as it was last week.

Last year the slugs found our tiny veg patch and demolished the only three Kohl-Rabi which managed to survive my ham-fisted gardening. On the first night of this season we lost three pumpkins in the Cow Poo beds (I offer no prizes for guessing why they are thus named). We tried putting cylinders of plastic around the plants but these were Special Ops slugs: they bypassed our defences by going under mulch and following the stems up above ground.

Fortunately Disgruntled has passed on a method for making traps which seem to work: the second night we found sixteen very dead slugs, and no plants eaten.

We fed the slug remains to the slow worms in the garden and for a couple of weeks an uneasy peace reigned with a couple of slugs a night falling into the traps, only one courgette getting chomped and a yeasty smell pervading the garden, but last night I discovered a skeletal potato plant far from the original incursions, and three very fat slugs, still on the leaves. These were quickly ejected and emergency extra slug traps laid. I’m taking salt tonight…

Any other ideas for repelling slugs?

Barn fixation continues. wooden barn with very large doors at both ends in a fairly inaccesible valley.

This weekend I made a trip to Bad Urach, in the hope of making a metric century.* Bad Urach is the sort of German town you see on calenders, with a medieval centre, winding cobbled streets, timber framed buildings, street cafés and a chemist claiming to have been in business since 1429. The town has been thankfully well looked after too, with a merciful absence of ugly modern buildings, apart from one brutalist concrete monstrosity that the council must have approved during an office party, but even that was tucked down a side street. The council did manage to make most of the old town pedestrianised so that instead of cars in the centre you get scenes like this.

Of course, just after I took this picture a car came trundling furtively down the road towards the café, probably having taken a wrong turn somewhere. I’m not one to criticise drivers for getting stuck on the wrong road, as I’m especially prone to doing exactly that: my dad still hasn’t forgotten the trauma of driving here while trying to follow instructions like “Turn left here… Oops, that’s a cycleway.” But, dear readers, I would ask one question: if you have unfortunately managed to find yourself driving along a pedestrianised street barely wide enough for your car, and come across a café whose furniture makes it even narrower and thus impossible to pass, do you:

A: Drive back the way you came and find one of the perfectly good, fast roads around the town to get to your destination, or…

B: …get your passenger to alight from the vehicle and move the offending furniture so that you can keep going, because obviously, you need to get somewhere and the furniture is In The Way?

I wonder what they would have done if the tables had been occupied…

*106km as you asked, at an average speed of 19km/h, and my legs let me know about it the next day…

Mill race in the hills near our apartment. The sign says “Cycling is not permitted”

These days you can’t even cycle in the canal, it’s health and safety gone mad…


There are many reasons our neighbours think we are strange. One is that occasionally when they bring their car out for a clean, we are lining up our bikes.* I’m not sure if the looks are because of the unusual nature of the bikes we ride or just because, they’re bikes, as in, Not Cars. And that’s just weird.

I’m a bit obsessive about cleaning my bike, probably he result of dealing with mud encrusted machines at the bike shop. I’m especially fussy about the front forks or the main bar, where mud collects easily. Fortunately the mudguards take care of most of the mud, cow poo, horse poo and assorted other semi-liquid matter that covers the cycleways around here, and the long frame of the Xtracycle makes cleaning much more pleasant as the area around the front gears doesn’t get spattered all the time, and you can get at it to clean much easier with the back wheel out of the way.

My goodness but I’m boring. As it is now spring there’s a slightly higher chance that the roads will be dry most of the time, and that I can relax on the cleaning. The bike still gets some dirt, of course, but it’s a grey-brown patina of fine road dust which makes it clear that this is a working bike, and is therefore very cool, whereas mud just looks mucky.

I think I should get out more.

Of course the real advantage of cleaning a bike is that even after I’ve taken the deck off the back, unfastened and removed the luggage carriers, cleaned the frame down, replaced the luggage carriers, removed the three kilos of rubbish I’ve been carrying about for weeks and wheeled the shiny bike into the garage, my neighbours are probably only half way through cleaning their car.

*Currently seven bikes, for a five-member family. And your point is?

The edge of the hills.This is one side of a pass into the range we can see from our apartment, when it isn’t raining or cloudy. If I was very much fitter than I am I could have jogged up to the top, climbed a tree, and waved to Beautiful Wife.

I’m not that fit though. And Beautiful Wife was out anyway

According to my bike computer of questionable accuracy this is 25 kilometres from home. There are worse views from a kitchen*.

*For example, the view of a carpark 30cm from the window in our previous apartment…

Youngest Son suddenly decided that pedals are the future and got his big brothers to teach him to ride a bike.. The first we knew about it was when Beautiful Wife saw him racing past the kitchen. He’s spent most of the week giving demonstrations and finding any excuse to ride anywhere (except up hills: still working on that). It’s great to see him happy, growing, more independent and mobile etc, but I’ll miss having a small person on my bike. The Kindergarten pickup has changed from carrying Eldest Son and as many of his friends as can fit into the Bakfiets, to towing a small bike up the hill using the Xtracycle, unhitching, and riding home together. That’s fun too, even if we have to follow a rather indirect route to avoid the main road, because people in cars are obviously more important than families who merely live here.

Anyway, Beautiful wife had mentioned that chocolate supplies were going down. This is a serious problem, so Youngest and I decided that we’d go to on the almost entirely traffic free route to the next town and resupply before things got dangerous: the sun was shining, and it would be a chance for Youngest to go out on a bike ride with a purpose. We decided on a plan: on the uphill bits I’d tow Youngest Son’s bike and he’d ride the Xtracycle, and if it rained (which of course it wouldn’t, as it was so sunny and bright) I could tow us home.

I really should have looked at the weather report closely, or taken more notice of those clouds behind us, especially as we had a tailwind. As we came out of the shop the weather caught up with us and my suspicions were confirmed that Youngest Son’s ‘waterproof’ coat wasn’t.

Fortunately there was a longer but less windy route through various housing estates and along the most expensive cycle lane in the world. By the time we’d made it to the top of the hill the rain had given up so Youngest Son got to ride the last bit and still seemed to be smiling when we got home. Of course the question is if he’s smiling because of the ride or smiling because it was over.

Ah, well, chocolate supplies restored…

In the depths of the hills towards Tübingen the forest Elves have made a spring, weary travellers for the use of.

It didn’t seem to give special powers like seeing the future, invisibilty, or even the ability to climb the next hill faster, but on the plus side I wasn’t attacked by any trolls and there were no dead sheep in the water upstream, so I was happy.

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