Going electric


As you all know, our old diesel has rather dramatically given up the ghost. Now, we knew the car was old and had thankfully already been looking into a replacement, though we’d hoped to do it by the end of the year after paying off the solar panels. Well, that didn’t quite work out, but it meant that we had already looked into new cars and decided on a model. We wanted an electric one, as it makes no sense to buy a conventional one now that will rapidly lose all resale value once electric cars dominate the market, and we sure as hell didn’t want a used one where you never knew when it would break down. Given that it needs to be able to pull our caravan and that the traditional European car manufacturers have stalled on developing electric cars, this left us either with the premium brands that are well outside of our price range and that use the electricity equivalent of a small town or the Kia EV6 and we were lucky to get one on short notice.

Now I know that cars are bad. Even electric cars. And I wished I lived in a world where I didn’t need one, or where we could get by with one car instead of two, but it’s not this world. I’d love to get there, but until that day, I need to eat and therefore work and that means driving a car. But an electric car is an improvement (especially when powered by renewable energy) and it really drives home the absurdity of conventional fuel powered cars in terms of energy consumption.

One big issue with all energy consumption is energy efficiency: How much of my energy consumption is actually used to produce the desired result. We all remember the old lightbulbs that produced 85% heat and 15% light. Modern petrol powered cars get about 40% movement. The rest is heat. When you apply the breaks, you turn more kinetic energy into heat. An electric car gets that up to 80%. Recuperation means that when you slow down, your battery charges. In case that you need to break (I hardly break anymore), your battery charges. My old car that Mr has now used 6 l /100 km super with my careful driving. My same careful driving now uses 15 kWh/100. This means that my commute already needs more energy than all household appliances together! But it gets worse: 1l super is the equivalent of 8.4 kWh, so the old car needed the equivalent of 50kWh. It gets even worse: Every litre of fuel that you put into your car has already used another litre of fuel in production and transport, so the 50kWh turn into 100kWh. Creating a car centric world was really one of the worst things we could do.

Holidays with Hindrances 4: Muckross House, Farm and Abbey

Welcome back. I hope you’re having a nice weekend before we all go in for another round tomorrow.

While in Killarney we didn’t actually visit Killarney House, but went to Muckross House instead, since that was just 5km from our campsite, so we went there on foot, visiting Muckross Abbey on our way.

View over the lake

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A beautiful hike past the lake.

Ruin of an abbey in between green trees

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Muckross Abbey is a very pretty ruin, but the graveyard has been in use since at least the 2000s.

Tree growing in a small courtyard in the ruin of the abbey

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That one looked amazing. I’m sure there’s a message in the tree long surviving the religious building.

grey brown manor house. On the hedge in front there#s a plush opossum

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Welcome to Muckross House. Our plush of the day is Opossible, who enjoyed his trip a lot.

Richly furnished room with a golden harp

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“Ireland was a poor country” my ass…

Portrait of a strict looking lady

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According to legend, Lady Catherine died at 140 when she fell out of an apple tree. Life goals!

Plae pink cosmea flower

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The gardens were truly beautiful.

Muckross Farm is an open air museum depicting rural life in Ireland in the 1950s. Yes, you read that right. Apart from trades like the blacksmith they have three farmhouses showing a poor family farm, a middle class family farm and a well off family farm. Remember that nice room in the picture above? In the 1950s people in rural Ireland lived like they hadn’t lived on  the continent for at least 50 years. no running water, no electricity. Good old medieval “1 room for sleeping, 1 room for living and sleeping” conditions. But the animals were very cute.

Middle aged fat woman with a horse.

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This year I did something new: I shamelessly took selfies and asked people to take pics of me. Am I young and pretty? No. Am I alive? Yes. the person with the camera rarely ends up in pics themself, but I realised that if I died tomorrow, my family would probably forget what I look like in a week because there’s no pics. Here they are. That horse was amazing.

Holidays with Hindrances 3: The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most famous scenic drives in Ireland, but you wouldn’t know it from the condition of the roads. We did it on a fairly bright day, but unfortunately, about halfway around, #1 discovered motion sickness. That meant that the poor kid had to endure the second half of the drive with a puking bag and there was no way for us to cut it short because the Ring of Kerry is still the best road when getting from Cahersiveen back to Killarney. Anyway, Here’s some picture, all scrubbed clean from whatever mishaps happened on the road.

Huge push hippo sitting in front of a scenic view of a green valley and a mountain

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Since this excursion was by car, Knöpfchen, my beloved hippo could come along for the ride. I miss my Knöpfchen, who is still in the caravan, which is now hopefully on its way back to us.

A view on the sea, with islets

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A beach with rolling waves

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I love the sea. Just to look at it. Put my feet in. Smell it. It#s the only disadvantage of living where I do.

A view across the sea on a hill

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A view into a valley with several small lakes.

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The Ladies’ View has been popular since the visit of Queen Victoria, looking out over the lakes of Killarney.

Closeup of the lakes

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An oak tree that grew sideways in the staedy wind.

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“Is it often windy in Ireland?”

Holidays with Hindrances 2: Killarney, the Gap of Dunloe

The county Killarney, the town of the same name and its national park are probably one of the most prototypically Irish places. You got it all: The soft green hills, the mountains, the old abbeys, castles and churches, the lakes. It’s beautiful. It’s also one of the oldest tourist attractions in Ireland, going all back to Queen Victoria and the invention of “trips” as such. One thing to do is to explore the “Gap of Dunloe”, a pass between the Purple Mountain and the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. There’s different options on how to do that, nd I#ll list them worst to best.

Worst: By car. The road is narrow, there’s tons of other people on it, it’s 15 km, so the whole thing will be over in 30 minutes max and most of what you saw is people being angry with you.

Second worst: By jaunting car. Yes, this is probably very traditional and tons of local folks earn their money that way, but having horses run on asphalt all day is just cruelty to animals. You can actually see a dent in the middle of the road, worn down by horseshoes and you can imagine what this will do to the poor animals’ feet. It’s probably amazing for the people in the car and I think few people know enough about horses to understand why it#s not ok.

Bad: motorcycle. Horses, pedestrians, sheep, narrow roads, curves where you don’t see shit. Do I have to elaborate?

Good: bike. Now, I wouldn’t recommend going by regular bike if you are not very fit and good at biking, though there was one guy who passed us uphill and still had the breath to wish us a good day. But nowadays you can rent ebikes everywhere and there were lots of groups with little physical fitness who managed. I’d say that if you don’t have a lot of stamina, that’s probably the best option.

Equally good: on foot. That’s what we did. I’ll admit that we didn’t walk the whole Gap. As you can see below, the traditional hike starts at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, leads through the Gap, down to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. You can book a boat back to Killarney from there, but that’s little use if your car is back at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. We made it to the top of the Gap and then some hundred metres downhill for a nice view before we returned. Now, Wikipedia claims that this walk was just 6km and can be done in about an hour, but the author is lying. We’re neither athletes nor comatose sloths and sure, we did take breaks, but getting up to the Gap is quite some hillclimbing. The way down to Lord Brandon’s cottage is shorter, but we decided that going down there meant having to go up again, so we turned back and enjoyed the walk instead of being completely done. The whole trip was 17 km and took a bit more than 4 hours, with the way back being much easier as it was mostly downhill.   So, enjoy the views!

Map of the national park and hiking trails

©Giliell, all rights reserved: You start at the red square, walk the white road down. We turned around shortly after the orange dot

More pics below the fold

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Holidays with Hindrances 1 : Let’s get started in the Normandy

Well, now that I complained about the car troubles, let’s focus on the good parts, because it was an amazing holiday and I would hate to only remember the things that didn’t work.

There’s a couple of ways on how to get to Ireland, but for us the most practical one is to drive to Cherbourg in France and take the direct ferry to Ireland. You can sleep on the ship and arrive moderately rested to start your holiday. We needed to be at the ferry terminal around midday, so we started early the day before, planning to go as far as we wanted with enough time to spare for the next day. Now, whoever coined the saying that “all roads lead to Rome” has obviously never been to France. Driving through northern France either means to take a dip south and go to Paris, or take national roads which occasionally lead through small villages. We took the last option because really, I don’t want to go to Paris by car. We made good way and basically arrived in the target area late in the afternoon.

While the campsite was actually booked out, they did have a couple of places “dans la prairie”, basically a rain soaked meadow where we could spend the night. No problem here and they had mussels night, which is the best thing ever if you like mussels. They will just refill your bowl until you cannot possibly eat another mussel and then you’ll have some more.

A plate with mussels

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There’s probably few places that will constantly make you uncomfortable as a German as the Normandy*, because the history of D-Day is so present. Our campsite was directly located at “utah beach and we took a stroll down the foggy road.

A road marker telling you that this is Curry Road, named after private Curry who gor killed during the landing

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Our holiday started during that wet spell in August, so it looked more like autumn than summer, but it was beautiful, and #1 completely freaked out because the landscape looked like the house in the marshes from her favourite movie ever, When Marnie was There, by Studio Ghibli.

View over foggy masrshes, mostly water with tufts of grass

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Foggy marshes, mostly green land with the sea in the background

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A small house with blue shutters at the side of the sea

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An old small rowing boat, half rotten, in the high grass

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*Disclaimer: This is probably false. I guess that those people who really should feel uncomfortable don’t feel bad at all, while I, descendant of the survivors of Nazi terrorism for whom D-Day was as much a day of liberation as it was for the people of France, feel uncomfortable and carry the weight of history.


There and almost not back again: Holidays with Hindrances

Ahhh, a holiday trip. The thing you’re looking forward to all year. And this year it was extra special, because we went to Ireland. And Ireland is amazing. And Ireland was amazing, but, well, let#s get started at the beginning of a road trip where you’d have dismissed the movie plot as not realistic.

The first day of travel went ahead really well. We made it up almost to Cherbourg and decided to go looking for a campsite. We found one at “Utah Beach” and arrived just right for their weekly mussels night at the restaurant. The next day we set out for the ferry and of course we arrived with hours to spare. This was when our first car troubles started, which were a blessing in disguise. See, when people start getting serious with each other, there’s certain things they can combine, like some insurances and stuff. Back in the day, I asked Mr if he had a membership to some road assistance or if I should get one, now that my parents could no longer claim me on theirs. He assured me that this was taken care of by the car company. Now when it was time to start the car again, our battery died and my husband found out that his car company road assistance had run out when the car turned 10 or so. After the nice people from the port helped us out, I told him that I was now getting some damn road assistance and signed up on the spot.

Well, in Rosslare we got off the ferry and set out for Kilarney the engine went into safety mode. We drove to the next garage who told us “no way, I got time in 3 weeks, try the next town”. By some luck, whatever had annoyed the engine had stopped and we could go to Kilarney. next day we went to a Peugeot garage, the guy there read out the engine data and assured us that apart from an issue with the secondary fan which needed fixing at home, the car was good to go. We had a wonderful time in Kilarney and were looking forward to the rest of the holiday.

Next stop was Connemara, which is in the far west and very thinly populated. On our way there the car gave a warning sign about the particle filter which said “check manual”, the manual said “have it fixed at a Peugeot garage”. Sounded not urgent and the car drove with no issues. Connemara was amazing, despite the storm.

Off we went to Dublin, only that we never arrived as planned.

Black Peugeot on a towing car

©Giliell, all rights reserved

About 50 km before Dublin the car went into safety mode again. We made it to a service station and had it towed. Now, people in Ireland are extremely helpful, so the road assistance guy hitched our caravan and drove it to the campsite with Mr. and 1 kid, while the other one and I followed by taxi (some issues there, none too big). The next days were mostly spent by figuring out where to take the car and what was wrong with it. The engine data said that the injectors for cylinders 2 and 3 were broken. We decided to have it fixed for a hell lot of money, so we could go home with our stuff and enjoyed the remaining few days.

On the day of departure we wanted to leave early so there was enough time for mishaps and traffic jams. That’s when we realised that the caravan had a flat tire. There was a screw in it. Thankfully there was a really nice guy at the campsite who helped us out getting the tire fixed. No problem, we still had time.

screw in a tire

©Giliell, all rights reserved

It’s about 160 km from Dublin to the ferry port. After 80 of them, the car went back into safety mode. We wanted to cry, we wanted to yell, but in the end we decided to push through and make it to that damn ferry, because everything was bound to be easier once we were back on the continent. We made it there, we called road assistance, we spent an unexpected two days in Cherbourg and got told that it was injector 2 again. We told them that we’d just had it fixed, could it be anything else? Nope, probably a faulty piece. We resigned to pay for repairs and try to get back some money from Ireland afterwards. At this point we just wanted to get home. The clean undies were all gone.

Instead on Tuesday, we left Cherbourg on Thursday and made it a full 100km to Caen before the car started to act up again and we gave up. We explained to the road assistance that we would not try to have it fixed at some garage in France again. We waited all Thursday if they could get us a rental, any rental, honest, we don’t even need to return it in Germany, in France next to the border is fine, but none was to have. After a night in a hotel I booked train tickets and we went home. And now I need to recover from my holiday.

Car and caravan will be brought home, we’ll take it to our usual garage then to see what their opinion is. Maybe we’ll be able to get some of the money back. We’ll at least get the train and hotel costs back from the road assistance and don’t have to worry about getting our vehicles back, so that was the best 72 bucks membership fee I ever spent.


School’s Out for Summer!

Hello folks!

School’s officially out since last Friday and I can tell you. I’m very fine mush. First of all, the last two weeks are some of the hardest, contrary to popular belief. For one thing, my school wisely decided to turn those last two weeks into project weeks under the “Education for Sustainable Development” goals of the UN, which are so broad that you can basically do whatever you want (though each year has one topic they need to touch).

I absolutely love those weeks. Instead of watching one movie after the other because the grade are written and the books have been collected, we do fun things that are really, really good for our underprivileged kids: visiting the library, the zoo, planting, painting,… It also means long days, not just for the projects, but also for the conferences at the end of the year, but lots of activities outdoors, with a pretty heatwave (that thankfully broke this week). As a result a bone deep physical exhaustion came on top of a bone deep psychological one.

You may remember that after my teacher training, I basically stumbled into special ed. I discovered that I like it and that I’m good at it and that I could imagine staying there. Unfortunately, the ministry of education claims that there’s no shortage of special ed teachers, I was just filling a temporary vacancy. For 5 years in the same school… I kept trying, the union kept trying, but the last phone call with the nice woman from the ministry made it clear that while I could probably always get a temporary contract, I’d not get a permanent one. But she’d send out a new temporary one. That was weeks ago, I kept waiting. Now, since I didn’t go to university for nothing, I kept applying for the regular teacher jobs, though me and my fellow “totally only temporary long term regular ed turned special ed” colleagues suspected that the two departments were keeping us in a loop.

On Monday I got a mail from the department overseeing regular teacher placements that they have (another temporary…) position for me. It would have been at a comprehensive school quite near, which doesn’t only have a bit less underprivileged clientele, but which also would knock off 2/3rds of my commute. But…, you know there’s always a but, they also have a joined high school branch* with the school my kids go to, the high school branch my kid enters next year, a high school branch I’m qualified to teach. Also, I like my school and I know that the principal there is fighting tooth and nail to keep me. Give her another year and the ministry will give me a permanent contract just to get rid of her. That’s an asset you don’t give up easily, so i texted her that unless she was able to work a miracle, I would have to take the offer. Well, she did work a miracle, I could switch with a teacher who was due to start at “my” school. So goodbye KWS (our school Instagram Account), hello, KWS! Another 6 months safe, and at least now I have a prospect of getting a permanent place. Also, I’ll be turning 45 next year, that’s the upper age limit for tenure, so I’ll become cheaper to hire, staying an eternal employee (no problem there). Oh, do I need to mention that my position as special ed teacher there is now vacant?

And with all those good news, I’ll fuck off to Ireland on Monday. Let’s see if I manage to post some sightseeing pics.


*Germany doesn’t have middle and high school. We have primary school (1-4 (6 in some states)) and secondary school (5-13), though some teachers are only qualified to teach until year 9 or 10.

Rediscovering Pen and Paper RPGs

Picture of several colourful dice

By Diacritica – Wikimedia Commons

In my 20s and 30s, I loved playing pen and paper. We had a really great group of friends, and even after the kids were born, we simply kept playing at my place, putting the kids to be in between looting and adventuring. Somehow life got in the way, two members of the group had a fall out, our group kinda died in the middle of the campaign. I’m not sure if my kids remember those gaming session or simply grew up with a steady tale of them, but they’ve been bothering me for a long time, asking to play some adventures.

In the end I recruited my two other friends and last week we had our first gaming session. Oh boy, that was fun. Since none of them ever played any pen and paper, I dmed, not my favourite thing, but since they’re also completely newbies in the world of The Dark Eye (Germans don’t play DnD, we play DSA), I also created a character to go with them, thus “giving birth” to “Salida de Emergencia*”, a priestess of the goddess of wisdom and magic, to give them some background information and also to get the roleplay going. If it comes to the last, she can also always disperse a bit DM wisdom, but that’s something I’d like to avoid.

I really had forgotten how much fun it can be, especially with completely green characters being played by completely green players. For one, the group is badly balanced. Neither of them carries an actual sword or has decent fighting skills. One of them, our nimble elf, carries a smallsword, which she kept losing by rolling 20s (in that system, 20 means failure). In the end, she resorted to wrestling with the Rodents of Unusual Size in a lot of bat shit. The archer kept missing, of course, because when you’re a starter character you have a 50/50 chance. Now the rest of them is suspicious of her because they barely survived the final fight while she was unharmed. Oh, and the mage didn’t learn the spells, so magic was not used at all. Playing by the rules, we would all start the next session by making new characters because these would be dead.

However, the good thing about playing together is that you can say “fuck the rules”. The combat rules are too complicated anyway. There may be people who do keep track on whether somebody is wounded, exhausted, their exact distance from the opponent. I have enough trouble keeping track of which bandit is dead and which is alive and killing which hero. I firmly believe that the rules should serve the game, not vice versa, so I’ll apply bonus and malus with some common sense. If the players also developed some of it, we might actually make it. ;)

*That character has been waiting in the back of my mind for a long time, ever since my beloved saw a sign saying “Salida” (exit) in Spain and remarked that it would be a nice girl’s name.

Creative Fun: Painting Ceramics

This is the little one’s fault (yeah, the little one. Almost as tall as me). She saw something like this on the net and asked if there was a place near where you can paint your own ceramics. I found one and invited the kids for Easter. While I dislike making huge presents for Easter, you can basically always get me to spend money on making memories. If there’s a place like that near you and you have kids ages 5 to 99 who enjoy creative stuff, I can only recommend. The nice thing is that since it’s professionally fired in a kiln, you get lasting designs, not like with other paint on techniques.

So, here’s what we did:

Various ceramic items, see individual desription with the other pics.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A small jug with dotted flowers.

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A green, white and brown tile with a kitty face

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A small ceramic owl figure

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The little one’s haul: lots of dots there. And a kitty, because she loves cats.

A rectangular tray with a sakura tree

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#1 worked painstakingly on her Sakura blossom tree. The picture doesn’t do it justice, since it doesn’t show the many layers.

Well, and what did I do?

Big mug in green and blue with the character Totoro

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View into the mug: a studio Ghibli dustbunny

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My new favourite mug. I love, love, love Totoro. It’s such a wonderful movie and I identify with Totoro: We’re both fat, grey haired and love naps, children and gardening.

I also did a plate which turned out completely different than planned.

A plate in deep blues and greens with a white geometric whale pattern

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The place offers you a lot of materials, like stencils, and also an introduction: you can always paint dark on light colours, but not vice versa. When fired in the kiln, they turn transparent and the dark colour underneath comes through. What I wanted to do was to use a mandala stencil to add a geometric pattern in black and then paint the spaces in between with vibrant colours. Buuuuut, well, with the curve of the plate and the clumsiness of the artist the black colour ran and smudged. If you look closely above the whale, you can see it shine through. I needed to save it and painted layers upon layers, smudging the black, drawing it out, creating a deep sea and the scratching out the whale with the help of another stencil. It turned out nice and I’ll try to create the other plate another time.

The Gardening: Almost Done!

We finished putting up the greenhouse and started to fill it:

Front view of a small greenhouse

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3/4 view of a small greenhouse

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As you can see, the foundations we found were a mixed blessing: The walls we had to put on top are huge. That’s 2 tons of concrete, they’re about 25-30 cm wide when 15-20 would have sufficed. People who know how to do that shit may be able to actually do that, we didn’t and we’re quite proud, considering that neither of us ever did anything like this. Putting up the house itself was pretty easy, all in all. Now it needs to be filled. I put down old concrete blocks in the middle to form a path, now I need to fill about 30 cm of ground. Because I want to plant tomatoes, and since tomatoes will suck the ground free of nutrients, I organised a load of horse dung from a colleague. Sorry that my tomatoes are no longer hardcore vegan. I already put in the first 5 cm or so on Sunday. I can tell you, shovelling horse dung into a greenhouse in 27°C  is not for people who enjoy breathing. Hopefully I’ll get the rest filled next weekend, so my poor tomatoes can finally move in, as well as the nice fig tree that I bought.

But do you know what the absolute best thing is about this whole project: I absolutely enjoy doing these things with my husband. Shovelling shit and pouring concrete may not be romantic, but working hand in hand on something for weeks and liking it, that’s compatibility.

The Gardening: building a greenhouse

Back when we renovated our home, we kept the old windows and frames in order to upcycle them into a greenhouse for tomatoes. Over the years, we already reduced the number of windows, saying we’d just build a small one. This spring, my beloved looked at them, sighed, and said: “Well never do that, let’s look at small greenhouses and what they cost, so we ordered a small greenhouse, about the size of a king size bed.

Now, you can call us fucking naive, but neither of us even googled what you have to do in order to put it up, so we only realised that we’d have to pour a foundation once it was bought and delivered. I’m kind of glad about it, because we probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

You could call that our first surprise. The second one happened when we started to dig into the ground in order to pour a foundation: My spade hit rock. And metal. I was glad about the combination as it meant that I neither needed to call the archaeological institute ( we live on old Roman ground and there’s 4 Roman sites within 30 minutes of walking from here) nor the “Kampfmittelräumdienst” (the agency that deals with defusing or exploding bombs, mostly leftovers from WWII). Turns out the people we bought the house from left us another surprise: a foundation that they no longer needed where they just hacked off the top, bent down the steel and put some soil on top.

a small dug up foundation in a garden.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I asked my old neighbour if she knew what it was and she said it was a mini swimming pool. Funny enough, it’s almost exactly the size we need for our little greenhouse, so we can use it to build on top. This means a bit less concrete and also this foundation has settled long ago. So for the last weekends we’ve been building wooden moulds and pouring concrete. At least we could get a mixer cheap on ebay. Old as fuck, but still working.

Old rusty concrete mixer in front of the work site

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Let’s just hope we finish in time so the tomatoes can move in

Cultural differences: Immigrants in Germany

This is a bit of a light hearted post, but with an interesting observation. I quite enjoy watching videos of people who move to Germany. Their surprise at things taken for granted gives me food for thought as well as amusement. Some themes seem to be constant: Germans walk. For fun. No matter whether the immigrant is from the US or Vietnam, they are both fascinated and appalled by the German passion for going for walks.

Or the utter confusion of rental flats not having a kitchen. The answer to that is: Germans don’t move and love their kitchens. We plan them more carefully than the bedroom. And we really don’t like moving. There’s a saying that goes “moving twice is like burning down once”, so once we moved in, we try not to move out again. The idea of “buying a starter home” is as alien as the idea of buying an AR 15 at Walmart. So unless you’re moving into a student flat or a shared apartment, bring your own kitchen.

These matters are constants, but of course, other things will seem more or less strange, depending on your country of origin. But then there’s a noticeable difference not in between people from different countries, but of US Americans of different genders. American women will often be full of praise: they can easily and cheaply get fresh produce! Childcare is only 150 bucks a month! Oh, and did I mention healthcare? US American men on the other hand complain about not being allowed to kill endangered species and pour oil down the drain. It’s tyranny, I tell you!*


  • Yes, you need a fishing license. Yes, you have to pass a test, showing that you know the fish, if and when you’re allowed to catch them, minimum size and what bait is ok. Oh, and that you can kill a fish quickly. No “I’ve been fishing in the USA since I was 5” does not count. No, you are not allowed to wash your car at home. Washing it with soap will introduce pollutants into the wastewater. You have to go to a carwash where the wastewater will be filtered to remove motor oil and other pollutants.