Gardening Joys and Work Woes

Last week we didn’t make it to Bavaria on Thursday afternoon. I’d planned to take the afternoon off, but some last-minute urgent work stuff came up and I couldn’t leave. So, we drove here last Friday morning instead and had a nice trip using a different route than usual, to avoid all the road construction and diversions on the normal route. In addition to my normal non-work Friday, I took Monday and Tuesday off, too. Mainly to get some gardening done. Our front yard looked like a meadow instead of a lawn, because of all the lovely rain we had this year.

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It was a great long weekend followed by two brutal workdays, where everything went wrong…

Friday afternoon, after the drive, I did nothing except read, and walk with Curious Dog. Saturday, I went grocery shopping. Sunday was lazing around and reading, on Monday Mum had a doctor’s appointment at the county town (everything is fine) and I went grocery shopping. Tuesday, more lazing and reading. In between hanging around enjoying life, I did an hour’s gardening in the morning and at night (once, in a fit of insanity, during the noon hours, when it was much too hot). It’s amazing how much you can get done in an hour when you keep at it. It was mostly cutting the long grass around our lawn, around the flowerbeds and bushes and in the middle. It was just too long to use the lawn mower. Now everything is looking nice and half-way civilized. I’ve got a lot of gardening refuse to drive to the municipal collection point on Friday (it’s only open for two hours on Fridays and Saturdays).

The plants are doing well. The two sweet potatoes we planted in May survived and seem to be thriving. Our dry-looking small Korean fir has grown a lot of lovely new green shoots; the Juneberry hasn’t bloomed, but I guess it’s too young – it is, however nicely green. The dwarf apple tree is currently carrying 5 tiny apples (not sure if they will survive to be harvested in Autumn, but it’s encouraging). The roses are starting to flower (everything is a bit later here than at my place in Baden-Württemberg). The peonies were still in flower, beautiful. I found that I quite enjoy gardening when it’s just an hour or two a day.

The weather is hot, up to and above 30°C. The first heat wave this year, I think. That makes it a good year in my book – I hate it when the heat starts in May. And next week it looks like it will be cooler again, dropping below 30°C with some rain. It’s hotter at my place than it is here in Bavaria, and I’m worried about the survival of our plants in the small raised beds on my patio. We did water them very well before we left and I constructed a makeshift sunshade (made of an old bedsheet) for them, but I’m not sure that will be enough. Still, it’s a north-west exposure and the sun only shines directly onto the patio from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. so maybe it will be fine. We can but hope. I don’t know my neighbours well enough to ask them to water my plants (especially since we’re gone so often).

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I did a lot of reading during my days off. More reading than gardening, which is kind of funny. I read three Nancy Mitford novels, The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing. I can’t remember why I suddenly decided to dive into Mitford, but I don’t regret it. They are nostalgic, sometimes funny or tragic novels about upper class or aristocratic life in the first half of the twentieth century. I also read The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa – really good and really weird. I read it in one day for my book club which is meeting this week (via Zoom). A good selection (as opposed to the sometimes less than stellar book club choices). And I’m now up to the half-way mark with The Iliad in the Caroline Alexander translation which I’m still loving. As usual, I plan to write a more detailed review for these books (but I’ve now got quite a backlog on book reviews).

Of course, I meant to write blog posts during my long weekend, but somehow I couldn’t motivate myself to turn on the computer and start writing. It’s weird that I have less motivation when I have more time. I need to work on this…

Tomorrow I’m voluntarily working in the morning (but I will be taking half a day of in recompense soon or at the latest the next time we drive to Bavaria). One of my regular work tasks usually falls on Friday mornings, and I don’t want to dump it on my colleagues. It’s a stupid task which doesn’t need much effort, so it isn’t a big deal. But it does have to be done. It’s nice to have an undemanding task after the stress of last Thursday (when I couldn’t take my half-day off) and the two days I worked this week. Last Thursday, I had to work on something with a colleague – basically prod the colleague to do a task which they had kept insisting was easy but nevertheless wanted to dump on me. Well, I resisted and made them do it and found out that they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. No wonder they wanted to get someone else to take over. I had to point out some stuff to them which I had noticed by chance just before our meeting. I didn’t have a clue either, but it wasn’t my responsibility. Since it was an important task which other colleagues depended on and I had been reminding the colleague to do it all along as well as asking for status updates for two weeks beforehand in our team meetings, I was super stressed and quite pissed off. And then I heard that in Monday’s team meeting (when I was on vacation), the colleague again said how easy the task was (before going off on vacation and dropping the rest of the task on another poor colleague). This was just the pits, so I complained to my manager. I don’t usually do this and don’t usually need to because my colleagues are generally professional. But this particular colleague likes showing off and turning their co-workers into their personal assistants (works best with new colleagues, who are too inexperienced to protest). It’s just not usually a problem for me, because I try to avoid working with them – note to self: keep it that way. My manager had already noticed that this current thing had been rather a shambles, which was good, but past experience has shown that they aren’t great at getting the colleague to change their behaviour. The colleague gets away with all sorts of things that other colleagues would get called out on. I used to think it was because they were extremely competent at what they do, but last Thursday has rather called that into doubt.

Keep safe world.

Tuesday Tidbits

When Partner was away, I drove to the garden centre where Mutti and I bought our small raised bed and I got another one plus some herbs and salad to plant in it. I got some more chives, some red-veined dock (mostly because it looked nice, but it is edible), some savory, some Thai basil (hoping that it will be hardier than normal basil), some lemon thyme, a chili plant and two salad plants (one romaine lettuce and one that I’ve forgotten the name of). Mum and I assembled the wooden bed, filled it with earth and planted the plants. They are doing really well (we’re already using them to season salads and other dishes), but I’m worried about next week, as we will be going to Bavaria again for 10 days and it’s supposed to turn quite hot, without rain (the last four or five days have been pleasantly cool and very rainy). So now I’m planning to put up a sunshade made from an old bed sheet above the plants and half drown them before we leave so that hopefully they will survive. They only get direct sun for about three hours every afternoon, so I think they have a chance.

Last weekend was a long one, due to the public holiday last Thursday (Corpus Christi). Partner returned on Thursday, which was super. For once I did the baking and made a rhubarb cake. A flat yeast bottom (like pizza, only sweet), rhubarb on top and a crumble on top of that. It lasted for three days and was tasty. Tart (because of the rhubarb) and sweet (because of the crumble). As Partner had returned early, while I stayed in bed reading and then had to take Curious Dog for his walk, he insisted on helping me with the cake when he arrived. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer (he’s like that, always very helpful) and peeled and cut the rhubarb for me.

Last Friday, I had to get Curious Dog some new kibble. The last two 15 kg bags are almost used up and so I drove to the dog food shop and picked up another two bags. On the way back, I stopped off at a market and bought some fresh asparagus. I also did the usual cleaning and vacuuming, but there was also a lot of time to relax and read or watch movies. I tried to get an appointment for my Corona vaccination, because my company has now started vaccinating the employees, but lots of my colleagues also tried to get the vaccination, so it didn’t work out. There’s not enough vaccine for everyone. I’ll try again every Friday until I get my appointment and maybe I’ll also sign up at a local vaccination centre (now that it’s possible, as the prioritization has been dropped in most German countries). I’m actually not unhappy that I didn’t get an appointment for this week at my company, as we Mum and I will be driving to Bavaria on Thursday and that might not have been possible if I’d had a bad reaction to the vaccine. Mum’s got a doctor’s appointment next Monday in Bavaria and I would have hated to miss it.

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Partner and I continued watching The Underground Railroad. We are almost done, only two more episodes. As I’ve said before, it’s dark and powerful. Very unsettling. The only thing I don’t like about the series is that it is literally dark. Very often the scenes are set at night, or in dark places, and you can’t really see much. That’s annoying. We also watched the next episode of The Bad Batch (fun) and Raya and the Last Dragon on Disney+. I liked Raya a lot. The animations were lovely, the world-building great and the story was enjoyable. It was adventurous, funny, sometimes sad, with a happy end. Nice entertainment.

On Sunday, we watched the latest Tatort (Crime Scene) episode, but I didn’t like it much. It was one set in Berlin and somehow, I don’t like the police detective duo in the Berlin episodes. I don’t like their personalities and how they interact, so I’m not sure if I will watch another episode set in Berlin.

Yesterday, we watched an absolutely depressing documentary about the trade in apes, that is, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas. The population of those animals are declining very fast, because they are hunted for bush meat and to sell off the babies. They end up in terrible totally exploitative conditions and the states who are members of the Washington Convention (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) don’t do anything. In fact, government officials are often bribed to turn a blind eye. I can understand why poor people might kill and sell endangered animals, but those government officials aren’t poor. They are just greedy. It’s very sad for all the people in all the countries that work to safeguard the apes but are not supported by their own leaders. If this illegal trade is allowed to continue, soon there won’t be any apes living in freedom in their traditional habitats.

To turn to a less depressing topic, I read a lot on the weekend:

  • Martha Wells, Fugitive Telemetry.
    This is the 6th novella in the Murderbot Diaries. I loved it. I read it once, quickly and then reread it straight away. Then I went on and reread the first of the series, All Systems Red, just because I was in the mood.
    I’ve also discovered that there’s a short story set in the Murderbot world that I haven’t read yet, but I’m keeping it for a treat for later.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun.
    I got this one from my birthday (in March) from Partner. It’s great. Blew me away.
  • Laurie R. King, Locked Rooms.
    A reread, 7th in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Also very good.
  • The Iliad (translated by Caroline Alexander). I only started this one.
    I read the Iliad in German ages ago, either while I was still in high school or while I was at university and didn’t love it. I thought I’d give it another try. I want to read the Odyssey in the translation by Emily Wilson, but the Iliad is kind of the prequel and I didn’t want to read one without the other. Now I’m loving the Iliad (maybe the translation is better or maybe I’ve just changed as a reader in the 20+ years since I last read it). I plan to finish by the end of June. Later on this year, I want to read some of the retellings of ancient Greek myths by authors like Madeline Miller, Jenifer Saint, Natalie Haynes and Pat Barker.

I’ll provide a more detailed review of those books soon (I hope).

I also continued reading Arabian Nights, which I also want to finish in June, and I read some more German poetry. I had a great long reading weekend and managed to do the normal amount of housework and a bit of weeding in my small garden as well. I felt quite accomplished by Sunday night.

I’ve got another long weekend coming up because I’ve taken next Monday and Tuesday off. On Monday there’s Mum’s doctor’s appointment (just a check-up) in the afternoon. I want to use those two days for some gardening and other chores at our place in Bavaria, but I’m sure I’ll also get some reading in. I’m too lazy to work in the garden all day (and it looks like it will be too hot in the afternoons anyway). I should also get an appointment for Curious Dog to get his yearly vaccinations. There’s lots to do in Bavaria.

Work is picking up again. I’ve planned my tasks for this and next week around my days off (I’m also taking this Thursday afternoon off, for the trip to Bavaria, as I didn’t feel like working on Friday instead. There’s lots to do, but at the moment things are manageable, knock on wood that it stays that way (it won’t, I’m pretty sure).

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

Mum and I spent last Friday gardening. Partner also pitched in. First, Mum and I took a trip to one of the towns I used to pass through on my commute (which, by the way I am not missing in the slightest) to shop for some plants for my small patio and garden. We came away with a small raised bed and some herbs: chives, parsley, oregano, peppermint, and rosemary. Partner and I assembled the wooden raised bed. I lined it with a thin gardening fabric (to protect the wood and prevent clods of earth falling through the slats on the bottom). We added a layer of shards of broken clay pots to help with drainage and then filled the beds up with earth, about 50 l worth. Then Mum planted the herbs. We’re hoping that the container of the raised bed is large enough that it won’t dry out during the 10 days per month when we are in Bavaria. It’s looking so well that I’m going to pick up another one of those bed so that we can plant some more herbs and other plants. We also got Mandevilla (because it also survives not being watered for a few days) for the patio. This one with pink instead of red flowers (the one we got for our grave plot last time in Bavaria). Last year we had a lovely white one for the patio, I hope this one will also grow as nicely.

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The Clematis that I planted more than a year ago (can’t remember when I planted it, it’s so long ago) has actually got one lovely blossom and another one will be blooming soon. If I remember correctly, the plant is supposed to keep blooming until late in the year, so I’m hoping for a many more flowers.

As indicated by all the gardening activities, the weather has been much better since the weekend. Temperatures climbed above the 20°C mark and it is now very pleasant. I hope this doesn’t mean that we won’t have any more rain for the rest of the summer. I’ll soon need to postpone Curious Dog’s afternoon walks to the evenings, as it will be getting too hot.

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Otherwise the weekend was much as usual. We went for long leisurely walks with Curious Dog though the wood and fields. Still quite damp in the woods, but that’s all for the best. Partner and I watched a few more episodes of The Underground Railroad. We are now at the half-way mark. It’s very dark, but powerful. And we watched the next episode of The Bad Batch. There was no new Tatort episode on Sunday, but the Polizeiruf 110 (also a crime series) was very good. Kind of strange, but good. The murderer wasn’t caught in the episode, but it seems that they will appear in other episodes. This one was set in the town of Halle, (in the German state Saxony-Anhalt) with a new pair of police detectives. An older one, divorced, with an alcohol problem, a younger one (an ex-nurse), with a family, three kids, the wife and his retired father-in-law who also appears to have been a detective. They didn’t find the murderer they were looking for, but they discovered a trio of deadbeats who’d tried to get rid of the body of one of their friends who had accidentally electrocuted himself while trying to fiddle illegally with the electricity mains in their run-down house. The two detectives seem to be a congenial pair and I plan to watch future episodes.

We did a lot of cooking, too. That is, I did the grocery shopping, some cleaning, and some laundry (the usual) while Partner did most of the cooking. We had asparagus again, as we love it and it’s in season, with boiled potatoes and a soy-yoghurt sauce. Simple, but good. Partner also made a rhubarb cake and a plain sweet loaf which he left for Mum and me to finish up. He’s returned to his place because there’s currently optical fibre cable being installed in his road and the workers will need to access his house. Not sure when exactly this will happen, so I’m not sure when he’ll be back. A pain. I don’t mind being without Partner in Bavaria, because I’m used to it (and he does have to check up on his old family home as Mum and I have to check up on ours), but I miss him when we’re here and he’s not. It’s weird without him. If he’s still away on Thursday, I may take the opportunity to resort and clean the bookshelves in his office. We just dumped the books on the shelves when we moved in three years ago. I resorted a couple of shelves a while ago, but most of them are still an unsorted mess.

I also did some reading on the weekend. I read some more of the poems in my German poetry anthology (I am now done with Middle High German and up to more modern German that doesn’t need translation). I also read Louise Erdrich’s The Beet Queen, which I liked a lot and will write a post about (later this week, I hope). And I’ve almost caught up with The Tale of Genji, my year-long reading project with a friend. Today, by coincidence I found that I’d missed the publication of a new Murderbot novella (by Martha Well). One of my favourite sci-fi series and I missed the new one! It’s called Fugitive Telemetry and I’m not sure if I should download it tonight and inevitably stay up late reading it or if I should save it up for Thursday. I believe I’ll take the latter option. A treat for the long weekend (as Thursday is a public holiday hereabouts).

Work is still quiet, as it is still vacation period (Whitsun school holidays) and colleagues are out of the office. I’m trying up some loose ends and taking it easy, but things will pick up again next week. I’m already organizing and planning my next tasks and will break everything down into a weekly schedule, so that I can get started next Monday. I need to do a thorough update of four documents and finalize two projects by August, and all sorts of minor additional tasks. The summer month will (as usual) be busy, but hopefully good planning will lessen the pain.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

We’re back at my place after having stayed at the family home in Bavaria last week. We drove back on Sunday, and it was a bit of a pain. First we had to drive the long diversion that has been in place for a few weeks on the country roads, and then, when we were on the Autobahn, we couldn’t cross from one to the other Autobahn, because the junction was closed for roadworks. We had to continue on the original Autobahn, till the next exit, then drive back in the other direction and then get on the motorway we needed to be on. If the junction remains closed, I will really have to take the longer route alternative route that doesn’t involve changing motorways. It can’t take longer than all these other diversions. At least it was Sunday, and not much traffic.

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The week in Bavaria was very wet and windy. Usually, it stayed dry in the mornings, so that Curious Dog and I could finish our long morning walk without getting wet. In the afternoons one shower followed another, but we usually managed to time a shorter walk in between the downpours. We also had thunderstorms and one extended hailstorm although the hailstones were smallish (between pea and chickpea size). I used the snow shovel to clear a doorway where the wind had piled them up.

I took Wednesday afternoon off work because I wanted to get some plants for our garden and worked on Friday morning instead (it worked out perfectly, as I had a task that needed to be done then). Mom stayed at home with Curious Dog, as we were worried about thunderstorms. We didn’t want him to be alone during one, because he hates them. It would have been a nice outing for Mum, the first for ages, but we’ll check out a garden centre here in Baden-Württemberg one of these days. I only meant to buy the plant we usually put on our family’s grave, but I got (slightly) carried away. I got the flowering plant for the graveyard, a red Mandevilla (also known as rocktrumpet according to Wikipedia). It’s only lasts for one summer since it doesn’t tolerate cold, but it survives without regular watering, has nice flowers, and it doesn’t get eaten by slugs (a big problem – lots of lovely plants are apparently the favourite food for slugs). I also got a couple of sweet potato plants for our garden, in the hope that they will survive without much supervision. A few years ago, we had a very respectable harvest from just two plants (but Mum was still living in Bavaria at the time and looking after the garden). I also bought a couple of lavender plants, one of which we also planted on the grave, in the hopes that it will keep the ants away. They keep building small ant heaps in one corner of the grave plot although they have the adjacent woods to colonize. It’s very annoying that they seem to prefer the grave plot. Then I got a small rosemary plant to replace the big bush that didn’t survive the winter. Removing the old rosemary bush was quite the chore. It had deep roots and was hard to pull and dig out. Lastly, I picked up a small hazelnut bush (only about 50 cm high) and a small Greek tea plant (it intrigued me and was described to need little water). Quite a few new plants and lots of clean-up to do in our garden, but it rained almost all the time and we didn’t get round to it during the week.

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We ended up planting the grave and new plants in the garden on Saturday morning, when it luckily didn’t rain. So, we spent until noon doing gardening, then had a longish lunch break and then I vacuumed the house and cleaned the bathroom while Mum baked a cake to take with us and did the kitchen. We were quite exhausted by the end of the day. When we return to Bavaria in June, I’m planning to take most of the week off, so that I can do some work helping Mum in the garden (before it gets completely out of hand). I’m too lazy to do it after work (and after two walks with Curious Dog) and it’s too much to do all of it on the weekends (certainly for me – I need my weekends at least partly for reading).

I had to pull myself together last Saturday. Spending all day gardening and cleaning the house wasn’t very appealing, but I didn’t want to spend all day in a bad mood. So, whenever I felt myself getting annoyed, I mentally talked myself out of it. It was quite effective, being mindful in that way. I actually had fun and felt accomplished at the end of the day. Also, I managed to do some reading during our lunch break and at night, aided by the fact that I hadn’t procrastinated on cleaning the bathroom until I had to do it in the evening. I hope I manage to keep this mindset about chores going now that we are back at my place. It’s weird how small things can derail my mood if I let them, but it’s also strange how I can stop myself from spiraling into a bad mood if I work at it. Mindfulness and meditation help me to control my mood, but they don’t do so automatically, unfortunately. I have to work at it. I don’t hate gardening or cleaning per se, but I dislike it when they take up most of the day. I often think that when I am retired, these tasks will no longer be a problem, I’ll just allocate a certain time each day to them and spend the rest of my time with whatever interests me, because I will have so much more time… But who knows what the future will bring? I have to live in the present. The present needs gardening and cleaning as well as more pleasurable things. I might as well like those chores and do them well and quickly, without procrastination and grumbling. Sooner said than done, though.

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Monday was a day off, Pentecost Monday (or Whitsun). It was lovely and relaxed. The weather was nice (for once). It started out sunny and soon became overcast but didn’t rain. It was very warm for our cold May, 20°C. Today it’s raining again, very windy (a level two storm warning), and cold for May, only about 12°C. I wore a thick long-sleeved T-shirt and my woolen shawl while working at my desk to keep me from shivering. At least we didn’t get wet during the walks with Curious Dog. I think I’ve worn a short-sleeved T-shirt only once this spring. Still, no doubt it will get warmer soon, and then I’ll be complaining about the heat. All that rain is beneficial for the soil (it was well wet when we were planting our new plants, not just a couple of centimeters at the top).

Yesterday we started watching The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime. It’s based on Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name about slaves escaping from their inhuman slaveholders in the American south using a real underground railroad. An escape from slavery narrative with fantasy elements. The series is very powerful (so far) and makes me want to read the novel. So far, I’ve only read The Intuitionist by Whitehead which I once proposed for my book club. It was good, but I think that I’d like The Underground Railroad even better.

On a lighter note, we continued watching The Bad Batch on Disney+ and The Clone Wars. Very entertaining in the usual Star Wars way. In the evening, we watched a Tatort (on Monday, instead of Sunday, because Monday was a public holiday). On Sunday they showed a rerun, which we didn’t watch. Anyway, the Tatort, episode “Neugeboren” (“Newborn”) was set in Bremen and introduced a new cast for that city, three police detectives: Mads Andersen (played by Dar Salim), Linda Selb (Luise Wolfram) and Liv Moormann (Jasna Fritzi Bauer). It was about a murder and a missing baby and how it all tied together. Not bad. The character of Linda Selb reminds me of a slightly down-toned version of Sherlock Holmes as played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Not as zany and anti-social, but similar.

I did manage some reading on the long weekend. Not as much as I could have but for gardening and cleaning and driving places: C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism and John Bayley, Elegy for Iris. The latter describes the marriage of Bayley with Murdoch, the famous writer, and how he dealt with her decline into Alzheimer’s. Both books were excellent. I hope to write a review of them in a future post.

Keep safe, world.

Gardening

Work today wasn’t very scintillating. A few meetings, some mails, some tasks done or postponed. I’ll need to be more productive tomorrow, as I’ve got some things to do this week, and it’s only two more days.

Walking with Curious Dog in the woods was the best part of the day. The only fly in the ointment (which, by the way, in German is “the only hair in the soup”) was that he collected a lot of ticks, especially in the afternoon. After our return, I must have picked at least 15 of the little creeps off his fur. I best some managed to latch on somewhere. This morning I found three attached ones. Poor guy. At least he is good about getting them removed – he always gets a treat afterwards and he lives for treats, so that’s helpful.

We a lovely treat tonight. A pawpaw that I bought last week. It was on sale and therefore affordable. Delicious! And quite large, so half of it is left over for tomorrow. Curious Dog got some too and liked it. He’s fond of a lot of fruits and pawpaw is supposed to be good for dogs (at least that’s what I read it somewhere).

After dinner, I dug a hole in the garden and planted a little fir tree that we had on our patio in a pot, where it wasn’t looking happy anymore. Since we are so often away, it doesn’t get enough water in the pot. We’re hoping it’ll do better in the ground. We will be giving it a good watering every day this week and it’s supposed to rain in the next few days, so it seemed a good time to do the replanting (although we really should have done it last autumn). I think it’s supposed to be a Korean fir. Hope it survives.

Anyway, that was my day. Nothing terribly exciting, but excitement is overrated.

Keep safe, world.

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Raindrops on My Skylight

Today was a day of much-appreciated rain. Sitting at my desk in my bedroom cum office at the top of the house, I heard it pounding away all day. Very comfy to listen to when one is dry and warm, knowing that it’s welcomed by nature, since it hasn’t rained much in the last couple of months. It is a tad cool – in Germany the days between May 11 and 15 are known as the days of the “ice saints” (die Eisheiligen). Those are the saints Mamertus, Pankratius, Servatius, Bonifatius and the “cold” Sophia. After May 15, it’s said, one can be reasonably sure that night frosts will no longer occur to endanger newly planted crops. Since I’m living in a very warm part of Germany, there won’t be any night frosts, but the temperature is expected to go down to 1°C tonight. I bought a plant for my patio last Friday that I’ve wrapped up in a plastic bin liner (not having anything better to hand) just in case that’s too low a temperature for it.

Last week and the weekend were nice and warm with temperatures around 22°C, even a bit higher, which is my favourite temperature range: anything between 20° and 25°C. Higher temperatures, I don’t much care for. That’s why I’m not so keen on summer, because weeks of 32°C (or more) is just too hot for me. 2018 was dire, with the heat and drought starting in May and lasting into September. August and September are usually at least slightly better, because the sun starts setting earlier again, but June and July are just awful when it’s hot and sunny. Curious Dog doesn’t much care for those temperatures either and I always need to go on his afternoon walks very late, when the sun is low and the shadows are long. Oh well, plenty of people like hot summers. Just my personal predilection. I don’t mind it if the heat stays in June, July, and August, but now-a-days, those are not the only hot months. We’ll see how it develops this year. But since we are already almost at mid of May, it hopefully won’t get as bad as 2018. The woods could do with a rainy summer, they still haven’t recovered from the droughts of 2018 and 2019. So, I’m happy it’s raining.

On Friday, I got some more plants for the garden. About four smallish lavender plant, which Mum and I planted under and next to the big rosebush (already blooming, lovely yellow-red flowers). Also, a clematis, that I planted up against the wall and fence to the neighbour’s yard. I already planted one last year, but that was too near the hedge and didn’t thrive (it’s still alive, maybe it’ll grow some this year). I also planted another flowering plant, for the bees, that I don’t know the name of. I used to have a huge version of this one at another flat, which had a balcony cut out of the roof. It was lovely, but the plant was invested with loads of little bugs and it was a pain trying to get rid of them without resorting to pesticides (which I never do, and certainly won’t do if it happens again – bad for nature and bad for Curious Dog). Hope it doesn’t get bugs here and that it doesn’t get eaten by snails.

Before we could plant the lavender, we had to remove a kind of plastic ground sheet that was laid under a covering of wood chips. I don’t know if this ground sheet was intended to keep the earth moist or to prevent the growth of weeds, but it was laid in all the flower beds in this yard (not too many, since it is a very small yard). I’ve removed it everywhere except under the huge butterfly bush, but I’m planning to get rid of it there, too. If it were something that would rot away, fine. But plastic? I’m not having plastic in my yard. Also, those ground sheets keep shedding bits of plastic string and I’m worried that birds (or other small animals) will pick it for nesting and get tangled.

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So that was Saturday. Gardening. It got quite hot and sweaty. I like a garden, but I’m not so enthusiastic about the work associated with it. Especially since I also did quite a lot of housework on the weekend. I hate it when the weekend has more work in it than a workday (but it wasn’t that bad, I’m exaggerating). The best thing about cleaning and gardening the feeling of accomplishment afterwards. Just a pity that it doesn’t stay accomplished but has to be repeated all the time.

On Sunday I did some cleaning as well and, in the afternoon, we watched Antman on Disney+, which we hadn’t seen before. It was entertaining and I’m looking forward to watching the sequel, Antman and the Wasp. I also binge read Martha Wells’ new Murderbot novel Network Effect. It was great – a real novel, not just a novella, like the other installments. I like them all. They are sci-fi dealing with the adventures of a construct, a kind of android with human parts. They are real-pageturners, but the most appealing thing is the way the Murderbot interacts with humans and other AIs. Spoiler: it’s not really a murderer, rather the opposite. I hope Wells writes a few more of these novels.

I also finished this month’s section of War and Peace. I’m now at the half-way point and it’s all good. Although I’m glad I’m reading it slowly, in installments, as otherwise I think I’d get sick of it. Too much high-level soap opera. It is kind of like a soap opera, except not so unrealistic. All the characters keep suffering reversals of fortune and feeling. Some of them are plain stupid or casually evil. Most of them annoy me at one point or another. But in smaller bites I’m enjoying it.

We also tried out two new dishes this weekend. One with mushrooms, bell peppers and savoy cabbage lightly fried in a pan and then deglazed with an orange juice and soy sauce. Served with whole-wheat pasta. The other with pre-cooked lentils to which pineapple pieces were added before simmering everything in coconut milk seasoned with lemongrass, a bit of curry, and a lot garam masala. Served over whole-grain basmati rice. Both recipes were easy to cook and absolutely delicious. They will be added to our collection of permanent recipes.

Today, we’re making a cream of broccoli soup. It’s the right weather for a nice warm soup: cold and rainy. Curious Dog and I got very wet on our afternoon walk.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

On Sunday I finished David Copperfield and Erebus. Otherwise, it was a quiet day, just reading, cooking, walking with Curious Dog and watching TV at night: another Tatort, which was not bad. A crime film showing the machination of a right-wing group in trying to undermine society while pretending to be persecuted. Interesting comment on women followers (or leaders). Why women want to be right wingers beats me. All that gets you is being a second-class human being in traditional patriarchy. Küche, Kinder, Kirche (that is, the woman’s sphere: kitchen, children, church). Not very enticing, I should think, but what do I know?

For a vacation day, I got quite a bit done. First, I walked with Curious Dog in the woods, as usual. It rained a few drops at breakfast, just enough to dampen the road. Hope it’ll rain a lot more (or at least some more) during the rest of the week. On our return, Mum was already busy in the garden, pulling up or cutting off all the dried stuff from last year. I packed three big baskets of garden waste into the car and drove them to the municipal collection point, which conveniently opened up again today. You had to wear a mask and keep your distance from other people, but that was easy. There wasn’t that much traffic. I’ll probably need to go at least one more time this week. There’s quite a lot of dried plants and other refuse to get rid of.

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After lunch and after the midday walk with Curious Dog I dialed in to work for an important meeting about the current and future product strategy. I didn’t want to miss it despite being on vacation and as it’s anyway not a real vacation (in my considered opinion, gardening is work), I didn’t mind it. T’was indeed interesting and relevant for me. Then I had time for my David Copperfied mindmap (which I will add as usual to the review when it’s done) and after afternoon tea (where we still hard some of the nut cake I baked a few days ago) I took CD for his last walk of the day.

Quite a few people in the woods, where I usually don’t meet anyone much. One bloke jogging, a family doing a picnic or something in a clearing (with a camper van) – hope they aren’t planning to light a fire as it’s so dry. Some kids at a scummy pond. A couple holding hands on a path. Some other people seen from a distance. Hordes not seen in years! Well, not really hordes, but definitively more than just the other few dog walkers I meet in normal times.

I also made a vet’s appointment for Curious Dog tomorrow afternoon. He needs his annual shots. He won’t like it… But that’s a tale for tomorrow.

Keep safe, world.

Baking and Weeding

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After my morning walk with Curious Dog on our usual route through the woods, I killed some time surfing the net. But at around 11 a.m. I pulled myself together and baked a cake for afternoon tea. A nice and easy one:

  • 250g ground almonds/hazelnuts (it was a mix, because we had open packages of each that needed to be used up)
  • 250g flour
  • 250g sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 250 ml mix of rum and soymilk

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowls and combine. Then add the liquids and stir it quickly. Spoon the mixture into a floured baking pan (I use breadcrumbs instead of flour) and bake at 180°C on the middle rack for at least an hour, slightly longer if necessary.

I got the recipe from Partner who found it online. It’s quick and easy and turned out very well, even though I left it a bit too long in the oven.

While the cake was baking, I mowed the lawn. Not a very successful endeavour. The long stalks of the gone-to-seed dandelion basically got flattened, not cut off (at least not all). And there’s almost more bare earth than grass. Still it looks marginally better than before. I still have to cut around the edges of the lawn, where the mower can’t go. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

Then, after lunch I kept up the good work and weeded the driveway in front of the garage. Took about an hour and I’m almost done. I didn’t quite finish, because I wasn’t sure if some of the weeds could have potential. Since they were on the side of the driveway I don’t use, I let them stay for now. After an hour I didn’t feel like continuing.

So, I spent the rest of the afternoon reading David Copperfield. I’m almost done. Maybe I’ll get done tonight. Then we had tea – or rather Mum had green tea and I had Caro-Kaffee, a hot drink that I’ve recently rediscovered. It’s a coffee-substitute without caffeine made from roasted barley, malted barley, chicory and rye; a powder. You add two slightly heaped teaspoons (or more) into a cup, pour boiling water over it and stir. It looks dark like coffee and I drink it with a shot of plant milk. I like it, but it doesn’t taste like coffee. I like drinking it at night, too. It doesn’t keep one from sleeping, as coffee might. Anyway, we had our drinks and the cake, which was lovely and will last the next couple of days.

Then I did my afternoon walk with Curious Dog in the woods again.

A nice quiet day.

I’ll do some meditation tonight and watch TV or read (if nothing’s on).

Keep safe, world.

Fence Building Snafus

Today, we wanted to finish our fence project, as far as possible. We hit some annoying snags:

  1. The shaft of my partner’s sledgehammer broke off as he was trying to hammer the post anchor into the ground. We had to revert to using the back end of the axe head. That was OK.
  2. The second post anchor couldn’t be anchored, because there was some obstruction in the ground where it was supposed to go. That wasn’t OK – I need that post.
  3. The fence wire wasn’t long enough for the space under the hedge. So, I made a kind of ugly netting out of some left-over clothes line and chewed dog leashes, which I will have to replace with something nicer. The neighbours may think we are bonkers. Curious Dog showed his appreciation (or whatever) by peeing on it.

So basically, the fence is still not done. I think we must be among the most inept of fence-builders in the history of fences. I still haven’t ordered the garden gate, either, because I haven’t found one that’s right for us. At the rate this is going, Summer will be over before we get the fence done. Oh, the incompetence.

At least the rest of the day was fine. Went grocery shopping in the morning. It was very full, because the shops where closed on Friday and will be closed until Tuesday. I got white asparagus for dinner, the first of the season. It’s grown hereabouts, and we always have some during the season. For lunch, we had the left-over half of yesterday’s pumpkin baked in the oven, very nice. We also had some herbed tofu and Mutti had made a Grünkern spread. Grünkern is unripe spelt grain that’s smoked over beech chips. It has a hearty taste and is supposed to be healthy. We also use it in soups.

For dinner we had the asparagus with salt potatoes and a soy yoghurt sauce with spring onions. My partner peeled and cooked the asparagus (it’s a tradition) and potatoes, and I mixed the sauce. Yum!

Otherwise, I continued reading my book and we continued watching the second season of The Bridge. It’s very convoluted and half the fun is trying to guess how it all fits together. At the moment, we’re wildly guessing and probably totally off the mark.

In the afternoon, at 4 p.m., I took Curious Dog for his walk. It was sunny and hot, and he panted a lot and drank from the two wells we passed. They have public wells (marked “non-potable” — I won’t be drinking from them, but they look fine for the dog) here that look like watering troughs for horses. Must be historical artefacts, as they look old.

I also managed my 45 minutes of meditation, which went as usual. Not particularly great, but also not bad.

Apart from the fence annoyance, it was a lovely day.

 

Still Sleep Deprived

Still not really acclimatized to the change to Summer time. I had a hard time going to sleep and then was startled out of a dream by the alarm in the morning. Usually I wake up before the alarm goes up. I had another low and tired period in the afternoon, but still managed to get a lot of things done, including updating one of my most important documents (one down three to go).

On the way to work, two (non-consecutive) sets of traffic lights on the main roads were out of order. Very unusual. Luckily, I had right-of-way at both intersections and I was also earlier than the main rush hour, so didn’t have a problem. They were back in order on my return home.

WhiteSpring2

I stopped off at the DIY-store and bought stuff for the fence:

  • 2 additional post anchors
  • 3 wooden posts to go into them (1 anchor I’d bought last time)
  • 1 metal trellis (to go into the corner by the rhododendron hedge)
  • 1 bag of earth for potted plants

I couldn’t buy the fence wire that I needed because it was sold out. What a pain. Shall have to see if I can get it elsewhere, or online. Didn’t get anything else, as I was fed up by the missing fence wire and we won’t have time to get started for a while on this project anyway.

The plan is to put the trellis up in corner where there’s a gap between the hedge and the neighbour’s fence, held up with one of the stout poles, strong enough to withstand the dog. He’s always nosing around there and would probably love to chase cats through into the neighbour’s garden. I’m thinking to plant a clematis in that spot. It should be shady enough for the roots, but sunny enough for the flowers, hopefully.

Had a nice walk with Curious Dog after work. Still nice weather. Apparently, CD has a new play friend, a small but very agile female terrier (he usually hates male terriers and they hate him). According to my partner, they spend ages running and playing in the fields when they meet up, like puppies. It’s nice. And gives CD a good work-out.