Five, Six, Seven

Alternative title, “Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’… into the future…”

Has anyone else had that darn Steve Miller Band song stuck in their heads a lot lately? Just me?

Slipping into the future feels about right. Somehow, it’s May, and tomorrow will begin the 8th week of working from home, self-isolating, sheltering in place, pick your description of choice. Not much has changed here since my post after the fourth week.

I’ve taken a few more long walks, which alternate between helping and making me all ragey at people who couldn’t possibly scootch over a bit. Nature has been tremendously helpful, the people less so. Typical.

Marry helped me identify some of the mystery produce in our new veggie delivery box. Turns out that this one was a rutabaga, which falls into the category of ‘shit I’ve never sought out before, but let’s figure out what to do with it!’ And no, we don’t normally let her on the countertops.

To shake things up a bit, and also to get out of the stretchy pants for a change, BV and I made good on our vow to try to do more cultural things. When he had to go into the office one day, he picked up some good pizza on the way home, we both donned our finest, and we ate pizza and watched an opera in the living room. The way that so many arts organizations have been putting up free content is pretty cool. And if we have no chance to get to New York anytime soon, at least we can enjoy the Met Opera’s daily stream for free.

Our friendly local kitten visited some more, and I made another focaccia bread. The yeast in the freezer is nearly gone now though, and there was still none to be found at Edeka this week, so I’ll have to put the bread trials on hold. Or get into sourdough like the rest of the world, apparently.

BV is a huge rhubarb fan, so I took a crack at this tart from the NYT. However, I didn’t have enough coconut to make the recipe’s crust. Instead, I made a Spekulatius crust, which is something I’d been wanting to try for awhile. I took a package of Spekulatius that were leftover from the holidays, crushed them up with butter, and some flour until I got a decent consistency that could be pressed into the cake pan. Then I just crossed my fingers and hoped that it would hold the custard, which it did. Fantastic!

Continuing the theme of occasionally putting on real clothes, we dressed up to go to the Biergarten: home edition, and spent more time clearing out the endless brush in the garden. I feel like it’s improving, but the bar was pretty low.

Pardon the roadworks sign there. It’s been suspiciously silent, and we nearly never walk down that street there, so I’m not entirely convinced they’re actually doing any work. Who knows.

So that’s where things stand in our little corner of Franconia. The May 1 holiday kicks off what is normally my favorite time of year here, where nearly every week or two means another public holiday in May and June. Of course we’ll still have those, and they’ll still be nice breaks from the work week, but the luster of ‘ooooh, what should we do with the long weekend?’ is missing.

They’re starting to slowly open some things up here, though more in some of other German states than in Bavaria. I guess all we can do is see how that goes and hope for the best.

And you? How are you staying sane wherever you are?

 

17/52

Week Four.

Week four of social distancing was, mercifully, a four-day workweek. Good Friday and Easter Monday are both public holidays here, and they came at a perfect time.

For the most part I’m still feeling pretty decent most days, and taking advantage of the good weather, garden, extra cooking time, and all of that. But by the end of the workday on Thursday, I was ready to pitch my headset out of the window. I don’t even like talking on the phone… and so after four weeks of spending most of the day with this stupid thing on my head, my ears were very ready for four days off.

YES I am aware that this is small potatoes, and YES I’m very happy to still have a job through all of this, and shouldn’t really complain, but my ears hurt.

As of this week Tuesday, BV is now working from home almost entirely. He may have to go in once a week if something needs organizing in person, but I’m happy to have him avoiding public transit more.

In preparation for the long weekend, he took a half day and picked up a car share so he could do a big shop. We hadn’t been to the Getränkemarkt since before Thanksgiving, so our stock of water, beer, and juice was empty. Now we’re restocked on beverages, and he also managed to pick up a few other large and unwieldy items that we usually save for car trips.

Easter weekend was mostly spent baking. I made both Samin Nosrat’s Ligurian Focaccia and Swedish Cardamom Buns because everyone knows that Jesus only rises with yeast.

Besides that, we both tackled a bit more garden work. I didn’t get back to the fence clearing project, but I did manage to completely fill our compost box with dead grass that I raked out of the most offensive places in the garden. We may need to cut the grass more often. Maybe. We put down a bit of grass seed along the fence, and in some spots in the back that had been torn up when a mystery digger was parked back there a few weeks ago.

An outdoor brunch was also necessary, and the glorious weather lasted all the way through until this morning.

Really, it seems appropriate to end the long holiday weekend with a rainy Monday afternoon/evening. Hope it does some good for that grass seed.

The social distancing regulations that were announced a few weeks ago were scheduled to go through the upcoming weekend, with schools planned to reopen after the Easter holidays on the 20th. Nothing has changed yet as far as that plan goes, so let’s see what week five brings.

Side note: was thinking about doing quick posts with links to all the what-not that I’ve been cooking these last weeks… anyone in need of some new ideas and/or interested in that? Lemme know in ze comments!

And you? How are things going wherever you are?

 

13/52

Week Three Down.

How’s everyone doing out there?

Here in ze Dorf, we’re marching along. I’m still home; my only excursion out this week was to our local Edeka on Friday afternoon. People were keeping distance, sort of. Everyone in there was approximately 8000 years old though, which wasn’t great to see. It also seemed entirely too busy for that time of day normally, so I think next time I’ll be trying to go in a daytime window, preferably not on a Friday.

BV is still splitting his time, so he gives me missives from the outside world. His company has taken some measures to space people out, and I know he’s doing the best he can to steer clear of people on the trains and buses as much as he can. With these coming two weeks being the Easter holidays, they’ll be shorter than usual, and hopefully even emptier in the public spaces he does have to occupy.

Beyond work and yoga and cooking, this weekend we occupied ourselves with some intensive spring cleaning. He continued his plant preparation and every windowsill in the house in currently covered in small boxes hopefully sprouting some kind of seed or another. Some things have made their way out into the garden already, but most will end up in his balcony planters or, possibly a raised garden bed to avoid the slug issues we’ve had in the past. The garden bed needs building though, so minor detail there.

While he planted, I dusted and vacuumed the bejeezus out of the bedroom and living rooms. I do like our wooden ceilings but my lord do they collect spider webs. My neck hurt by the end of the day from looking up for so long! Curtains came down and got washed, furniture was shifted, needless to say, it was a long overdue cleaning. Poor Marry was mildly traumatized by how long I had the vacuum going, but she seems to have recovered. I’m slightly embarrassed by how long it took, and how much better it looks now. If the pollen stays mostly outside this spring, I’ll consider myself lucky.

Sunday should technically be a quiet day, but it was a bit warmer so we moved the cleaning party out to the garden. BV tackled the back of the house, where he chopped up a tree that he had taken down last weekend, and tried cleaning out next to the brush pile. Since we don’t have our big cherry tree anymore, it would be nice if we could get close to the small one in the back of the garden, but usually it was covered by piles of brush.

I didn’t help his cause though, as I took a rake to the fence line in the front of the house. There’s a weird plant up there, no idea what it is, but it results in piles of straight sticks out of the ground, most of which die quickly. Nearly the whole fence was covered in brush when I started, and this is how it looked by the end.

Not exactly an English garden yet, but much improved. I had to give up after three hours through. Between the leftover muscle aches from Saturday’s cleaning spree and clearing this mess out, I was KO. Where the brush starts again in the middle has more actual living plants, so it won’t be quite as bad (famous last words). But they’ll have to wait a few days at least. Plus there are some very sweet blue flowers in front of that mess and I didn’t want to trample all of them. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

So. Week four. Let’s see how we go.

 

 

12/52

31-Day Challenge: Day 26

Describe a walk around your block…

***

We don’t really have a block, so to speak, at least not in the traditional grid sense of your typical American city. Instead, I’ll tell you a bit about my new walking route, which has been deemed “Upper Dorf.”

A couple years ago when I started walking and trying (unsuccessfully) to jog, I formed a “Lower Dorf” route. I still like that route, but it involves crossing a lot more streets, even going directly through a new neighborhood, and frankly, there’s just more people than I like to see when I’m wandering about.

BV went questing into the forest one day in search of dirt (don’t ask), and discovered a new trail, which has now become part of a larger track that I’ve been developing.

As I mentioned a few posts back, since getting the Fitbit, I’ve been trying to get those ten thousand steps a day that we all supposedly need. I’ve got my new trail down to right about nine thousand, which ensures that even on the laziest days, as long as I do that, we’re good to go.

To start off, we leave the house and go around the train station. Don’t make eye contact with the loitering teenagers, and watch out for broken glass on the ground. Also, if they’re having noise contests with their scooters, just ignore them. Passing by the small area of rowhouses and the old station building, go through a gate and under an archway of flowering bushes. This will bring you out in a duplex’s parking area, but just go around the house and turn right back towards the street.

At the next street take a left and in a few steps you’ll be onto the gravel road that goes to some of the local garden plots. Past them, the gravel street narrows to a bike path that connects us to the next village. But we’re not going that far. The short stretch of trees on the right will come to an end, and then you turn right too. Across the field and past the fish ponds, go up the hill and you’ll come to another gravel service road and a few isolated garden houses.

Off to the right you might hear some traffic, but that’s our direction. When you come to the street, check for cars of course, and then go across. It doesn’t look like much now that everything is blooming, but there’s a small path through the forest here. After a quick uphill climb, the path will widen and more paths will come and cross at every which angle. Despite the myriad of trails, it’s rare to see more than a dog walker or an old farmer checking on his trees here. Keep going straight and after passing through the thickly planted area inside a fence, start to the bear to the right. Coming to the top of another small hill, you’ll see another street, which we’re crossing again.

Through another small field with three carp ponds waaaay off to the left, and we’re back onto a gravel farm road. A quick pass under the trees and then a great expanse is in front of you. Depending on the season the squares in front are brown, green, yellow, or right now, all of the above dappled with wildflowers. Time is of no importance and the sun is shining, so again we’ll turn left. On a sunny day all around the field we can look off in the distance and see the Nürnberg TV tower, and beyond that, the soft blue outlines of the hills that surround the city.

The long straight road comes to an intersection. In front of you to the left and the right are small fields with horses. Turn right, passing horses and freshly turned over ground on the left, and a field of waving grasses on the right. A few more minutes brings a T-junction, with more horses to the left. Left also goes to the next village, so we’ll turn right. The road abandons its square lines here, instead snaking into the forest. We follow that through a stretch of forest and come out on the edge of yet another grassy field.

Off to the right we can see a few farm buildings, but let’s turn left again. Around the square we go, today having to pass around two cars that are parked side-by-side on the small farm road, while their owners have a chat. A few more turns and we pass by a dog walker, nodding hello to both man and dog.

Three sides of the field pass by, bringing us to the front of the farm buildings. A sign advertises fresh eggs and milk, and the occasional cow can be heard from deep inside an enormous barn. We caught glimpses of the chickens as we passed by the hedge, but they much have a much quieter rooster than our neighbors.

The farm buildings are connected to yet another village by a long allée lined with birch trees. We follow the trees, just keeping up with a tractor kicking us dust far off in the field to the left. Another patch of forest behind the field on the right comes closer and closer until the field narrows and the forest meets the road. Here we turn right again.

Following the edge of the forest on the right and another field on the left, we start to hear a faint humming sound. It grows louder and louder, and then between the trees we see the outline of some brightly painted boxes. The beehives are open for business. A safe distance away is an insect hotel, where a few bees buzz in and out, in addition to its other residents.

Circling another field we have a view to the skyline of our own small village. Most of the houses are shielded from view by trees that are bright green, though just a few weeks ago they were white with blossoms. Now the white blossoms are all around us, as we’ve left the farm field behind and are crossing through a grassy meadow. Ahead of us the first farm field grows closer and closer, the yellow heads of the rapeseed waving in a slight breeze.

The field gradually slopes uphill, until we come to the first intersection we met. Reversing our path, it’s back through the trees, across the roads, through the forest paths, back around the train station with its loitering youths, and home again. Now it’s time for a book, a sunny spot in the garden, and a loooooong drink of water. Or a beer, your choice.

***

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary. 

Sunday Snapshots: Deceptively Peaceful?

fachwerk cdg

Franconia, 2014

This picture is of one of my favorite little buildings in our village center. Don’t be fooled though, because even the idyllic-looking villages have their share of the dramz.

Earlier today, BV skipped off to vote in a local election. They are currently debating building a bypass road around our village, as currently many residents of the surrounding villages have to drive right through our town center on their commute to/from the highway to Nürnberg every day. As with every small-town drama, the two sides are viciously waging war on the pros and cons of this bypass and everyone is so entrenched in their positions that a resolution probably will not be found without blood on the ground. Whatever the German version of the Hatfields and McCoys is pretty much what’s going on down here (Müllers und Schmidts? too basic. Bauers und Brandmeiers? yes, let’s go with that).

So that’s what’s going on down here. Though when coming from a small town, it is somewhat comforting to know that some things are universal.

Two Saturdays, Two Pictures

One of my favorite ways to spend a weekend is visiting our friends in the village, and we were lucky enough to do just that for part of the last two. Last Saturday, I left poor BV to his books, and headed down with another friend to help celebrate her birthday. Our villager friends had prepared an absolutely enormous bonfire, and we spent the evening eating cake, drinking drinks, and keeping warm in the cool spring evening air. The kids and the kittens played hide-and-seek, while the adults roasted cocktail shrimp over the coals.

bonfireThe fire burned down to coals and we finally turned in after midnight. The next day the kids were up and raring to go, whether the rest of us were or not. A long, slow, walk in the fresh air helped matters a bit, even more so with an extended break at the playground so the adults could sit for a minute. When we got back to the house, the fire was still smoking a bit… I guess it’s safe to say that adding more wood was pretty unnecessary.

This weekend we were invited back again, so BV could take part in a poker game that they’ve been trying to play since Christmas. He had his first round of tests on Friday, and we drove down when he got back from the class. A study break was very necessary, which meant he was in much better form after some whiskey, snacks, and man-time. He even came out €5 ahead at the end… not bad considering he’s never really played poker much.

While the gents played, the ladies chatted over some wine, and helped to set up an absolutely fantastic fort that the kids’ Nana had made to fit under their stairway. Then some went to bed, and some of us joined the guys to watch the mayhem unfold. It was a fairly lively poker game, but keeping all the guys on track after they’d finished the first bottle of whiskey was challenging to say the least.

I turned in shortly after midnight, and BV came to bed when the game broke up around 3:30… presumably when the majority of them ran out of cash. I made the better choice though, as we were roused for breakfast by my favorite fairy-winged 4-year old before 9am… much earlier than either of us usually gets up on the weekend. BV wasn’t moving yet, but it was his loss. Home-made pancakes were well worth the early wake up call.

We were invited to stay another night, and to join the rest at a local dancing celebration and workshop that was taking place all weekend, but unfortunately BV had to get back to the books. I would’ve liked to stick around until Sunday, as they also had plans to visit a bird market and pick up some more chickens. But, I guess we’ll just have to wait until our next visit to meet the new additions. Until then, there are always the goats.

goats

This Old German House: Welcome to the Cave

Living outside of the city has some major benefits. When I moved in with BV, it was almost triple the space of my flat in Nürnberg, not to mention the beauty of having a garden. I especially love it right now, as early spring turns the garden into a magical fairyland, with no effort whatsoever on our part. Can’t go wrong with that!

We rent our flat from a friend of BV’s, which means that we get a bit of a discount, but are expected to take care of said garden, pick up the landlord’s mail, and keep an eye on things in the empty flat downstairs. The disadvantage is that our landlord hasn’t been around much in the last year, lives far away, doesn’t drive, and BV is sometimes slow to ask him to fix things when they break. I don’t write him because I’m 95% sure he’s scared of me, so it’s probably better for BV to handle things with him.

Which brings me to our current cave. On the whole, I like the house and the space. But it’s an old house, and it doesn’t have nearly enough windows as far as I’m concerned. The living room and bedroom are south and south-east facing, and therefore only really bright in the morning, when we’re either sleeping or not at home. I like a lot of light, and the fact that it’s almost never bright enough to read comfortably without turning a lamp on, drives me a little crazy.

Then, a few weeks ago, tragedy struck. BV pulled on the interior strap to raise the wooden blinds on the bedroom window. One side tried to go up, but the other side didn’t budge. At first we thought that they had just frozen in the recent cold snap, but then every few days we tried again with the same results. Great. Our bedroom was now a cave. I think the exterior blinds that all the houses here have, are quite frankly genius, and I don’t understand why we haven’t caught onto them in the States yet. They certainly block light much more effectively than any curtains or blinds that I’ve ever had before, which when you’re trying to sleep in is absolutely fantastic. But when I’m trying to clean the bedroom, read, or organize papers, I need every bit of light I can get. Having them down all the time is simply unacceptable.

These pictures were all taken in the afternoon on a bright day…

After a fair amount of whining on my part, we finally managed to double team the problem. We opened the window, and while I slowly pulled the strap, BV jiggled the wooden slats of the blinds until they were straightened out enough to shove them up. Woohoo for daylight! I’ve tried on my own a few times in a few different ways, but it seems that opening the blinds in This Old German House is officially a two-man job now, at least for me. BV has long enough arms to be able to do it on his own, but he’s usually in such a rush in the morning that he forgets to open them for me before he leaves. Cave!

Back in November, our landlord and landlady had come by to do some yardwork, and see what else might need doing. They had asked BV about coming by to redo some of the sealing work on the windows in our flat. This would be great, because between the old house and the old windows, they don’t hold heat in the winter worth a damn. However, they wanted to come by on the day when we were hosting Thanksgiving, even after we told them that we’d have 12+ people over. They didn’t think it would be a problem, something with which I heartily disagreed. In the end, BV convinced them to postpone the work, and of course we haven’t heard a thing about it since then. I asked BV to write to our landlord, because clearly something needs to be done about the blinds, and he replied that we couldn’t possibly have them replaced. “But they’re wooden blinds! They’re older than most houses in America!” This could very well be true but it’s not a positive argument, as far as I’m concerned.

Finally, over the weekend, something happened that warranted immediate action. Our doorbell rang Sunday afternoon, and BV answered it to find our next-door neighbor. She told him that the four houses that are down the alley next to us, were all having major plumbing issues. Things were backed up, and some of the bathrooms on the ground floors were having problems.

Everybody with me now, “ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.”

They got the plumber out here right away on Monday, but finally BV had no excuse to avoid writing the landlord. Apparently all those houses are connected to our sewer pipe (all the houses were built by the original owner of our house), and some of the tree roots from our garden caused the blockage. Awesome. As it turns out, the possibility of sewage leaking up into the downstairs flat is urgent enough for him to come over almost immediately, so he’ll be here tonight. On the agenda for this evening’s meeting – which I will happily miss due to my VHS class – checking the plumbing, looking at our bedroom blinds, and discussing what can be done about our windows. Maybe if we strike while the iron is hot, we can even get him to remove a partially cut down tree with giant thorns from the front garden… It looks terrible and those thorns might blind someone walking by one of these days. I’ve wanted that thing gone for a year now, and he isn’t here that often.

Thorny trees aside, I just figure that since spring is trying to arrive, it’d be nice to have a bedroom window to watch it from. Village dreams, my friends.

Sunday in Pictures

Yesterday was a fairly typical Sunday around here, so I thought I’d share a few pictures.

First off… these red things are all over around our house at the moment. Clean shoes beware!

sunday pics1In the afternoon, we were off to BV’s dad to have a little Sunday lunch. And by “little,” I mean absolutely enormous Schäufele for the guys, and two steaks for me. For some reason, no matter how many times I only manage one steak, two always show up on my plate. No pictures of food today though, instead I thought people may enjoy seeing what stares at us while we eat….

Yes, one is a Wolpertinger. Beware.

Yes, one is a Wolpertinger. Beware.

After they had all stuffed themselves silly with pork, BV and I returned home and decided to try to walk some of it off before the Packer game. We went my usual route around the village and it was a truly gorgeous evening.

sunday pics13

We also made a quick stop at the cut-your-own flowers-and-grab-a-pumpkin stand to see if there were any spaghetti squash, but they were all out. I was a little sad to see how many gladiolas hadn’t gotten picked this year, because they are one of my favorite flowers. They still had great color… I’ll have to go by more often next year to get some.

sunday pics17The sky started to get dark, but it was still lovely.

We got into the village, and took a moment to stop and appreciate one of the fabulous gardens. They redecorate this well often, and the whole area around it is an absolute riot of color. Flowers, garden statuary, lights, they’ve got it all. The downside is that the windows of the house are right there, so I always feel like a creeper when I try to take pictures. Hence the blurriness.

sunday pics18We made a quick stop at the local restaurant for a beer (since we had worked off at least some of the enormous lunch), and after that we headed home for the Packer game. Marry die Katze was a bit out-of-sorts with us for leaving her alone all day, and here she is… doing her best to distract me from Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the crew.

sunday pics19

Mow.

That was my Sunday… how was yours?