Lockdown V.2.0: The Lightening

Germany is currently two weeks into our second lockdown, but once again, it has little to no effect on anything I’m doing. I hear gyms are closed, but as long as I can do yoga at home and go for long walks, I’m all set. I’m still working from home, minus two weeks I recently had to go to work in person. It was the first time since March, and let me tell you, it was really weird after seven months. Trying to get teenagers to put masks on before they get up from their desks or open the windows with regularity in November was… a new aspect of my job that I wasn’t expecting.

But while I was out for those few days, I did get a chance to walk through Fürth and see what was happening. The first week I went out was in October, when case numbers had been steadily climbing but there were no new restrictions yet, and the second week I was out was the first week of the new “lockdown” restrictions in the beginning of November. To be honest, I saw nearly no difference.

I had to stop at the bakery and the supermarket while I was out, and both of those places were open during the first round of lockdown back in the spring. The new restrictions came into effect during the fall school holidays here in Bavaria, so I was looking forward to emptier trains, more space, and fewer school kids than in a normal week. To be fair, there were fewer kids, but the trains when I was coming home at ca. 1-1:30 pm were oddly full. Walking through Fürth, all the stores (most of which were closed in spring), were open and people were out and about shopping. My train was full with middle-aged folks with shopping bags. I was… confused.

There were signs that masks should be worn, even outdoors, in the pedestrian areas. That was mixed at best. And since then, the numbers in our region have gone through the roof. It’s incredibly discouraging. I know there are plenty of people staying home and only going out for necessities, but it seems not enough of us.

I was expecting the government to tighten things up even more soon, but some news came out this evening that there’s disagreement among the state leaders, and they’re meeting again in about two weeks to see where the situation is. Seems like a long time with these numbers, but who asked me?

I do feel a bit hypocritical because this seems to be the price we’re paying for amongst other things, people travelling on their summer holidays. We travelled as well, but it was after peak season, we went to low-risk areas, avoided people as best we could, masked up everywhere, and got tested when we came home. Both of our tests came back negative, which helped the peace of mind a bit.

On the other hand, if we do have harder and longer lockdowns coming, I think I’m going to be really really really glad that we had that nice, long, late fall holiday. With no Christmas markets, no big village Thanksgiving, and likely the bare minimum for Christmas itself…. it’s going to be pretty dull. I was really hoping that we could go back to Tuscany for New Year’s again this year but the chances of that look like they’re slim to none. The prospect of cleaning the office instead is less than appealing.

This was all a lot less bleak-looking in March when the weather was getting warmer and the days are getting longer. Now I’m going to have to try to shoehorn walks in during my workday somehow, as normally I don’t finish until it’s already dark out. It’s going to be a long winter, that’s for sure. But at the end of the day, this is what we all have to do, or what we all should be doing, so maybe we can actually see each other in person again. At some point.

Until then, I’ll be here. In the living room. Where I’ve been. For eight months. EIGHT MONTHS.

Gratuitous fall shots, for as long as it lasts…

21/52

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

Odd Side Effects

This post is an entirely unscientific list of things that I wouldn’t have thought about before all this happened:

  • Virtually no contrails in the sky on these super beautiful spring days.
  • Piggybacking onto that, one of my random hobbies is checking on the Flightradar24 app when I see a plane overhead. Lately, they’re nearly all cargo planes.
  • And again piggybacking: we are quite close to a small airfield and on aforementioned beautiful spring (and summer) days, we see piles and piles of gliders. Now? None. I haven’t checked to see if it’s officially banned, but I’m guessing it falls under ‘sports activities that can’t be done alone’ and so it is.
  • I’ve mentioned in some of the weekly posts that I’ve been cooking a lot. The dish piles have been LEGENDARY.
  • On the opposite end, we’re doing nearly no laundry. That side is nice. Stretchy pants for dayzzzz.
  • I had a few pairs of mid-season shoes/boots that either 1) needed replacing or 2) nearly did, and I can happily push that off until fall at least. Saving wear and tear on clothes is okay as far as I’m concerned.
  • We’ve gotten some solid cleaning done. If you only have a weekend, it’s the last thing you want to do, but now we have no other options, and can get some little things done after work during the week.
  • I kinda miss riding trains. I do not miss the commute.
  • There are daily vacillations between, “oh my goodness, I’m so glad we live out here and can be in the forest and nearly alone in less than 10 minutes,” and “oh my goodness, I would murder for a take out burrito or pizza or anything else but there’s nowhere to walk to.” Not knowing what will become of our favorite places in the city is deeply frustrating.
  • Some places have expanded delivery options, which is fantastic. Also BV owes me sushi, and I think I’m going to try cashing that in next week for some sweet, sweet, sushi delivery.
  • This spring has been prime Biergarten weather, but we can’t visit our favorite one. And we have no idea if it’s even open. They were maybe closing, then definitely closing for a bit then opening under new management, but then the last time we walked past, the menu outside still had the same family name on it. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING. Also, I miss the lovely waitresses and the terrace cats. *sigh*

 

Here’s hoping we all get through this. Back to beer gardens and trains, back to making plans, and not seeing people only through ambush video calls.

 

14/52

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 Two Down.

Twelve days by the calendar since my last post, though time seems to have developed some curious warping and stretching tendencies. Apparently this morning we were all supposed to change that odd clock in the house that isn’t controlled by satellite… daylight savings time didn’t seem to get the memo that days have gotten all fuzzy.

Twelve days ago, I was working from home mostly by choice. My people that I have contact weren’t in the office, so what was the point of me going anywhere? That was Tuesday. Most of last week was truly glorious weather, so I took advantage of my freed-up commute time and took long walks in the warm sun every afternoon. I tried dodging people as best as I could, but it seems that all around Germany the social distancing that was encouraged by the government was not quite taking hold. On Friday at midnight, Bavaria became the first federal state to institute stricter measures.

All non-essential businesses are now closed, restaurants and cafes are limited to take-out, and everyone who can is to work from home. BV was still going in the first week, but last week he and his boss worked out a plan so they can alternate days. It’s not ideal, but its the best they can do for now, and at least it cuts down on his train/bus commuting by half.

For our first official weekend at home with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I spent most of my time in the kitchen. I tried and partially succeeded in making an apple strudel (more on that later), and finally got around to reorganizing the disaster area that we had been calling a pantry.

Still has some ways to go, but we shall not be buying anymore canned fruit unless there’s a specific purpose for it. And expired pickles will be the new salty snack until further notice.

My classes rolled on this week, with the exception of one or two last-minute cancellations. Really, that made it more like a normal week in some ways. The only difference being that here I could do my in-between administrative tasks with Marry die Katze looking over my shoulder, rather than hunting for a free desk in the wild plains of the open office concept. I’m grateful that I’m still working, and I do think that the people I work with are appreciative to have that sense of normalcy. Thank goodness they’re used to spending half the day on telephone conferences and didn’t bat an eye at changing our English lessons.

Beyond work, I didn’t leave the house/our garden from last week Friday afternoon until this week Friday afternoon. Besides the harder restrictions being in place, I had a few more late meetings this week, and the weather took a hard turn back to cold. It was deceptively nice-looking out the window, but the wind had a distinct bite and I decided it wasn’t worth it. Instead, I spent more time cooking because at least we will eat well during all of this. By the end of the week it warmed up a tad, so we were able to have a nice Feierabendbier at our garden table for the first time on Friday afternoon. Plus, we were joined by our new part-time garden residents!

These two wee nuts have been frequent visitors so far this spring. They are very playful, very rumbly, and very intent on causing a ruckus over at our neighbor’s chicken coop on a regular basis.

They also joined me for much of yesterday afternoon while I did some recipe recording in the garden. BV took care of the manual garden labor portion of the day, and we got the grill going later in the evening for the first grilled bratwursts of the season. The next few days look rather chilly again, but we’re hoping for more nice days to take advantage of the weather and approximate the Biergarten experience at home as best as we can. It seems we may have to for quite a while.

After two weeks of this strange new world, I’d say we’re coping fairly well with it most days. Thank goodness we already did a fair amount of meal planning and didn’t rely too heavily on eating out (though I was VERY excited to have sushi delivered to the village on Monday. That was not possible before). We’re both more homebody types anyway, but I’m guessing that in a week or two, I’ll be wanting to see… someone else. Since BV will still be in the office at least 50% of the time, he’ll have some outside contact. I’ll have to make do with virtual connection. Or order more food so I can at least talk to the sushi guy.

I did have a small crisis on Wednesday or Thursday. I was scrolling through something or another and just really wanted to go… somewhere. It’s very rare that we have no vacations, no weekends away, no hiking trips, absolutely nothing planned. I get itchy if we don’t. Intellectually I know that we can’t plan anything right now, but that did not stop me from hopping onto one booking platform or another and just bemoaning all the nice, cozy places that might as well be on Mars now. I doubt that will be the last time it happens, so if you’ve got a tip on a solid distraction or coping mechanism, leave it in the comments?

Whew. This got rambly. Sorry about that.

Stay home, stay healthy, stay sane. We’re all in this together (separately, at home, alone).

 

 

10/52

Greetings from the Inside

Hay there

From the other side of the story to the inside of all our stories. Here we are, in Corona-induced limbo.

Like hopefully most of you are doing, I’m on day two of self-isolating. I wasn’t really planning on it this week, but my first indication came at about 8:00 on Monday morning when one of my afternoon appointments switched our meeting to their virtual channel.

Normally on Mondays, I have an 8:45 meeting so I’m out of the house by 7:30. They had conflicts this week though, so cancelled our meetings. Thank goodness, because that saved me at least an hour-and-a-half round trip to find no one in office. All of my groups were informed on Friday afternoon or Monday morning to stay home, so though I wasn’t ordered to stay in, I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future. The good news is, it’s possible. Not ideal, of course, but possible.

BV is, at least for now, still going in. They have relatively little possibility (tech capability, really) to work from home, so he doesn’t really have a choice until they are told otherwise. We have no idea if that will happen or not, so for now we’re just hoping he doesn’t bring anything home with him.

Germany isn’t yet fully restricted, and I will be interested to see how quickly they decide if that needs to be cracked down on. Not that social media is always a terribly reliable resource, but it sounds a bit like people are treating it as freebie days, particularly in the cities. As of this week, non-essential shops should all be closed, all big events are cancelled, but it’s still not as stringent as many countries around us.

I’m not without fault… I went to the post office yesterday to retrieve a package, and took a long walk later in the afternoon, but I did my best to give other walkers a wide berth. The parking lots at both supermarkets were quite busy when I went past, and the people in line at the butcher’s (attached to our post office), were standing much too close to each other for comfort. There were also a few groups out walking together in the afternoon, and while sure, the mom and kids probably live together, I doubt that the three older men walking and chatting away do. If it does come to a stricter lockdown situation, I would really like to still have the possibility to get out in “the nature,” so people need to stop acting like idiots and potentially ruining it for the rest of us.

But if that is where we are headed, I fully plan to channel the energy of that lovely South Tyrolean horse up there. Even a recluse by myself might get itchy after a week or two of this. So if you’re stuck on the other side of the proverbial fence, you can still try to reach people. Or maybe it’ll be time to learn to be content where you are. Though if where you are looks like this…

…it might be a bit easier. Our apartment is plenty comfy, but I think I’ll be mentally going to this valley as needed in the next few weeks.

Take care of yourselves, each other, feel free to mentally hang out in this majestic place too… and remember to #staythefuckhome. Hope you can.

 

9/52