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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects

April, 2006

Dear Families and Friends,


This is the month we SHOULD move in. We'll see.


April 2 - Yard Planning

It was Sunday, a non-shopping day in Germany. On Saturday, we'd already done about as much inspecting of the inside of our project as we could handle. Now, it was time to work out in the field.

Our friend Mike had drawn up a professional plan for our landscaping. It's a nice collection of relatively easy areas, but with enough interest as well. Thanks, Mike!

In front and in the "Hof" (courtyard), the construction scaffolding still makes it hard to imagine landscaping.

Out in back however, the bare field makes imagining both easy and a requirement. But first, Marianne spent some time imagining a leisurely Sunday morning reading magazines. I suppose that's what it's all about.

My contribution was to throw old bricks about where I think we'll plant trees and dig fence post holes. I got tired doing just this much, so I don't know what will happen when I actually pick up a shovel! But, as you can see, it's a wide open canvas to paint Mike's landscape picture on.

April 3 - Stucco Progress and the Hood


Just one work day later, it was beginning to seem like the outside may finally get finished. The scars on the courtyard side were beginning to vanish. (I'll admit, this is a level of detail only an owner would appreciate!)

Inside, the exhaust hood was finally in place. This whole installation has proven to be much harder than expected, in part because such serious cooking exhaust fans are not the norm here in Germany. We had to arrange far more custom work than I would have thought, but it's all part of the live-and-learn process.

But the dramatic, visible progress would be tomorrow!

April 4 - Real Color

I had a morning meeting to discuss telephone and computer network technology with Axel and a technician. This was a discussion I was not looking forward to because, frankly, German phone systems are a lot more complicated than the old Ma Bell things we grew up with. Computers I can handle, but phones?????

The big surprise turned out to be when I looked out on the patio and saw the workers painting the house! When seeing my pleasure at the dramatic change, the stucco guy (who really is a master at rebuilding this stuff) complained that he works for weeks to get a paintable surface and then the painter rolls some color on and everyone takes notice.

By the evening, everyone could indeed take notice because the first coat of paint was almost complete. We think it looks GREAT!!!!!

Not only was there visible outside progress, the kitchen was coming together too. We now had the start of our main cabinets, "the blue ones". The promise was for a complete kitchen by Friday so the granite counter could be designed correctly. We'd see.

Finally, the last of the upstairs lights were in place. These look good enough for make-up to me, but I'm not the expert!

April 8 and 9 - Outside Focus

The was the start of the Great Gardening Week (GGW). Marianne was in America with her mom, who was recovering well from unexpected surgery. It was up to John to make use of the Spring weather and organize the entire landscape. Is it possible to complete a quarter acre plan, by one planter, in just one week? Who knows?

  Out front, the door was now visible - mostly. Still a plastic cover, but it's much more inviting than the construction door that has been here for almost eight months.  

Saturday's big event was building a stone wall along the patio. There were two purposes: build a transition form the patio height and reduce our junk stone pile. It may not look like much, but the work was a serious test for GGW.

Next I had to get out the tractor to clean up the back field. All us farmers have tractors but mine's still on order, so Mr. Zuerl did this for us.


On Sunday I dug holes and turned over dirt. All this was done by hand since I don't even want to figure out how to rent a cultivator. Besides, it's good exercise (I keep telling myself.)

Finally, a couple landscapes showing our little valley. Spring sheep were making it particularly bucolic.

April 11 - More Progress

Yesterday was a slow Monday, mostly because the cold, winter rains had come back. In an instant everyone's mood was black, mine included.

Today dawned bright and cold, but we'll forget about the temperature and concentrate on the sunshine.


Inside, the major event of the day was "building" the kitchen counter. This was a fairly elaborate process of making a wooden stick pattern that the granite mechanic would use to shape the stone. A week from now, we would see the result.


Outside, the major event was finishing the painting. Finally, it's almost done. The scaffolding started to come down and reveled a nice house underneath. It had been over seven months since we had actually seen the outside of our little home.

At 5pm, Mr. Schlierf delivered our orchard and about 60 other landscape plants and bushes. I managed to plant a row of sticks and three cherry blossom trees. Since tomorrow would be a regular work day for me, I had to plant the dozen other fruit trees in a temporary nursery. That planting proved harder than expected because I chose a place with the rockiest "soil". Oh well, it would only be for a couple of days.

April 13, Finish Orchard and Check On Counter

Yesterday was a regular work day, engineer-work, not farmer-work. No planting, no home supervision (in fact, there was nothing to supervise as everyone got a Wednesday start on the Easter weekend.) Besides, it was cold, rainy, and windy; good for farms maybe, but not good for us farmers.

Thursday dawned cold, gray but not rainy, yet. After breakfast I went over to the "farm" and got out all the gardening gear.

My minimum goal was a dozen trees. These were the bare-root fruit trees that need to be safely in the ground before the warm weather hits. For sure, it hadn't hit yet. The rain barely held off until the whole collection was complete, but that drizzle freed me of any guilt from quitting early.

After cleanup, for both the farmer tools and the farmer himself, it was off to shop for a round of miscellaneous garden equipment. I can see this will be a regular event.

First though, on the way out of our valley, I stopped by the stone guys to see if there was any progress on our kitchen counter. I peeked inside the shop and there it was. Mr. Weichert said it's only half done, but it's looking pretty good so far!



April 15, Back Yards are WORK!!!

OK, the last entry said "finish orchard". That's a lie. It will never finish, just as the rest of the farm plantings will never be truly finished. But, it's the process that's meaningful. I told my self this "truth" over and over again. Tomorrow morning I have to get up at 4 am to go get Marianne and I'm certain my eight-hour day in the yard will come into painful focus as I try to get out of bed.

The day was dry and cloudy, perfect for yard work actually. I'm not sure I ha a goal, other than to spend a full day on various back yard chores.


I started with easy jobs. Planting four forsythia in our sandy soil was a ten minute job. I consider these to be glorified weeds, but when they show off their bright yellow after a long gray winter, they are among my favorite weeds.

I also planted the last of the fruit trees, an apricot called "Hungary's Best". Of course I had to get that one, right Putchica? (However M's family name is spelled.)

At the other end of the field, I added five current bushes and a half-dozen raspberry plants. If these grow and bear fruit, it will feed either us or the local birds.

Across from the berry field, the "perennial" field was going in, with considerable hard work. The far side was a mixture of 100-year-old sod and more recent building debris. Clearing a couple square meters (20 square feet) took two hours of I'm-going-to-be-sore-in-the-morning work.


My last planting job was to sew a kilogram and a half (three pounds) of (wild?) flower seeds. The idea is to have some color among the wild grasses that naturally reside our there. The spreading was not too tough, but raking over most of our orchard area was a final straw. I finished though, just barely, but finished enough with this part of the property.

At the end of the day *, it felt pretty good knowing there were all kinds of plants getting ready to grow and block the view of the ugly brown barn behind us. We'll see in a month or two -- or a year or five.

Final tree inventory (front to back, left to right):

  • 3 Accolade Flowering Cherry
  • 1 Marina Cherry (sour) - ripe middle July
  • 1 Regina Cherry (sweet) - ripe end of July
  • 1 Sylvia Cherry (sweet) - ripe July/August
  • 1 Ontario Plum - ripe Aug
  • 1 Williams Christ Pear - ripe mid-August to Sept.
  • 1 Charneux Coast Pear - ripe October and later
  • 1 "Earliest" Apple - ripe July
  • 1 Rebella Apple - ripe September
  • 1 Rotor Boskoop Apple - ripe November (and storable)

Bush inventory

  • 1 Buddleia Davidii - Empire Blue
  • 2 Viburnam Pl. Mariesi
  • 1 Star Magnolia (unplanted yet)
  • 4 Lynwood Forsythia (back fence)

Berry inventory

  • 2 Willamette Raspberries - ripe mid June
  • 2 Early Rubin Raspberries - ripe mid July
  • 2 Bristol Raspberries - ripe end July
  • 2 Ribes Nigra Titania - (black current)
  • 1 Ribes Rubrum Rovada - (red current)
  • 1 Ribes Rubrum Johnkeer Von Tets - (red current)
  • 1 Ribes Sativa, Weisse Wersailler - (green something-or-other)
  • 1 "House Plum" (Hauszwetche) - ripe end Sept/mid October
  • 1 Large Greegage Plum - ripe mid Sept
  • 1 Ontario Apple - ripe December (and storeable)
  • 1 Hungarian Best Apricot - ripe end July/August

* Post-script.
Mrs. Werner dropped by and introduced herself. She is the mother of the man from whom we bought the house and she had lived in it for 30(?) years. My German is (still) poor, but it was fun listening to her stories. She told of standing in what was now the ground floor bathroom and heating water in the original washing tub. Then she'd move them to the washing machine and heat up a batch of rinse water. Only then, could she ring them out over the through-the-wall draining board. Her apartment was upstairs, with a kitchen in the room that is now a bath and a living room in what is now the master bedroom. Her brother Theo had the downstairs (except the washing room). Out in the barn, she told of years when she had to wake up in the dark and, wearing a lantern around her neck, go out and milk the cows. People were tough before electricity and running water!

April 19, Almost Done, Really

This was the last day before cleaning and at least ten craftsmen showed up to finish their bits and pieces. By the time of the end-of-the-day check, it was beginning to look almost done. Tomorrow it's cleaning. Friday, it's floor finishing (and a trip to the States for me.)





Range with Tile



Wash Room
Staircase Detail

April 20, Closer yet

Marianne, click here for slide show.


Diaries - Travel

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