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Long Garden Weekend

May 17-20
Written May 18-20
Dear Friends and Family,

Marianne's gone to California and I have a four-day weekend.  This is not my favorite combination, but I have made a detailed plan about how to fill the time:
--Thursday at home.  Yard etc.
-- Friday out, shopping and other.  Bakery, groceries, trash, desk, cleaners, etc  And, the big Garden Show
-- Saturday,  Whatever wasn't done the last two days
-- Sunday,  Try a photo day, and make it up to Frankfurt for my Monday/Tuesday

I will complete this diary as I go, mostly to keep my absent wife up-to-date. 
That's the plan.  Now, what actually happened?

THURSDAY (written Thursday & Friday)
This is Ascension Thursday and a holiday here in Germany.  It is part of the rash of holidays that happen in May and is a big part of the transition from winter to spring.  Traditionally, one should not plant before this week, because there will be a hard frost.  So far, this has been true.  Every year, April is nice and deceptively warm.  Then May hits, with a freeze that threatens the fruit and wine seasons.  This year, Germany did get a May freeze, but our small region may have been spared. We will see how the flowers I planted last week fare.

On Monday evening I had picked up my serious lawn mower from the shop.  Mr. Beck had done the annual get-it-started and he had also replaced the cutting blade with one 50% longer.  I was so excited with my new farm implement that I mowed the field after work, at least as much as I could before Old Yellow ran out of gas. 

This burst of excitement also created my biggest job for Thursday: raking the field.  In fact, I spent over six hours out in our backyard, raking, weeding, planting, cleaning and generally doing the chores we now expect at the end of each winter.  The weather was perfect; cool and sunny, with enough breeze to keep the bugs away.  I actually found myself enjoying being a land owner.

Of course my to-do list held more than yard work.  With Marianne gone, I had to do laundry (three loads), fix meals (all three!), send emails, pay bills, balance the check books, and change our US address.  Now that Gabby has a real house, we are shifting to her place for our US-address-of-record.  Mamo loses her job of forwarding mail, but I doubt she'll miss it.

At the end of the day, I grabbed the camera and took a walk.  I ended up at the Kellerhaus Kafe, chatting with Rose Marie Hoffman, the owner's wife.  She had just come back from three months of volunteer work in Bolivia, good stories, but a sobering place.  She was reminding us all that we live as royalty, in a paradise, compared with the normal people in places like Bolivia.  This was a good reminder to be thankful for so much.
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So, that was day 1 and it went pretty much as planned.


FRIDAY (Written Saturday, while waiting for the trash depot to open)

On normal weekends, Marianne and I enjoy the tradition of breakfast-at-the-bakery. Pommersfelden has few businesses, but Burkard's Bakery is one of the most important.  Of course, our diets now restrict things, but a small splurge is always a good start on chores and garden work.

And the whole morning was busy, with grocery shopping, garden work, and a couple of futile trips out.  The futility first came from an early trip to the "recycling station", only to discover it was only open three days a week, and Friday isn't one of them.  Even on Saturday, they have leisurely hours, so I am writing this diary as I wait for the gate to open.  Germany recycles more than any other country, but they do make it hard sometimes.

Yard work included the last of the mowing, since that is only allowed on non-holidays.  I also took the oleander plants out of their winter home in the barn.  I am still surprised that these plants survive for several month with little light and no care.  Hopefully, they will produce flowers this year, although they don't usually.  I don't really think German climate is right for them.
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After lunch, I crossed the street and went to the annual "Faszination Garten", a three-day market for garden things, held in the yard of our neighbor, Palace Weissenstein.  It is always fun, but having now attended ALL of these celebrations, there is a sameness to everything, including the strolling brass band, The March Brothers.  I have to say, the bros are getting older and older.
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Otherwise, it was shopping as usual.  I even bought yet one more wind-gadget for the back yard.  My orders were "something colorful" and this seemed to fit.
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The local animals were in attendance, from geese to frogs.  Can you sport the real ones?
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Mostly, there were flowers and yard ornaments, including this smudgy torch.
After a tough afternoon shopping, it was back to a little bit more garden work, fix dinner, call Marianne, 30-minutes on the stationary bike, and early to bed.  ("early" is almost ALWAYS true for me I'm afraid.

SATURDAY (Outlined Saturday.  Will finish if I don't tire.  Didn't.  Now it's Sunday)

I did not allow myself a bakery breakfast, like traditional Saturdays, because I had done my weekly weigh-in and had gained a pound or two.  Even on our strict regime, I find things go up and down and going back down just requires a little attention.  Noted.  Besides, on this Saturday, I had a busy schedule.

My first timed stop would be the trash re-cycle center that had not been open yesterday.  This is a very complex place, with at least ten separate areas for different junk: electric junk, electronic junk, cardboard, clothing, fluorescent light tubes, iron scraps, non-iron metal, etc., etc.  Our normal trash allotment is fairly small, very small by American standards, and the only way to keep up is to do the sorting and occasionally visit this center.  An interesting point is that the people who run it are all really quite friendly and helpful, more helpful than the stores where we bought all these things new!

From here, it was a drive through our farm field over to Dachsbach to order my new desk.  Marianne said she would buy me a desk for retirement: getting a work desk for stopping work.  There must be a message there.  Mr. Vogl the cabinet maker was his normal friendly self.  An advantage of custom-built furniture is that anything is possible, size, complexity, choice of wood.  The corresponding bad news is that one has to make all these decisions.  Fortunately, he has ideas and experience and I basically like the simple style of his work.  He mixes painted wood, natural wood and even sliced stone for decoration.  Of course, this is not exactly cash and carry.  Cash, OK, but it will take a few months before we can carry the new furniture away.

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On the way back home, I stopped in neighboring H√∂chstadt to see what all the excitement was at the fair grounds.  It turned out to be a big gathering of volunteer firemen, including a fun collection of old fire trucks.  I particularly liked the 1964 BMW 501 fire commander car, with siren.  With only 72 horsepower, this was no race car, but it did serve for three decades before being replaced.
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Finally, back at home, there were more chores.  There is an infinite supply of chores, I afraid.  I decided to tackle the clean-up of the wood cover to our (non-functioning) well.  The sanding turned out easier than I had anticipated and the application of oil was quick and easy too.  It looks great, even if I do say so myself.  I was so encouraged by the results of this chore, that I took on oiling the barn doors, the smaller ones leading out to the yard. Again, decent results, once I had made a run to the local hardware store to buy more oil and once I repeated my first work after discovering the new oil was darker than the original material.  In any event, the doors should stay healthy for a few more years now.
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And my Sunday plans had changed too.  I was looking forward to limiting my chore time and just enjoying the sun and warmth and quiet.  We'll see how THAT turned out.

SUNDAY

This is the last of the four weekend days and it is the one where, by German law, I can't do very much.  Shops are closed.  Work visible from the street is forbidden.  Noisy yard machines are forbidden.  Works for me!

I did get up early, as usual.  This early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine is fully established, even on Sunday.  I enjoyed breakfast on the patio, looking for the sun to move up our yard.  Eventually, I put on old clothes and, German law notwithstanding, did a few chores.  First, out in "the orchard", I installed spacers in the two new trees.  The idea is to get limbs to  spread out so more apples are reachable and more are in the sun.  The trouble is that it takes years to notice any success.  We'll see.

I also had to do some car work (behind closed garage doors).  I added a liter of oil after getting the low level light yesterday. I don't think I have done any sort of "car work" in a decade or more, and I still don't feel comfortable doing car tasks, even something as easy as adding oil.  The other garage task, an annual one, was a general cleaning.  All winter, it is just too cold in here to do anything constructive, but when the warm weather comes, it's a petty nice guy-space.

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After these few chores, well hidden from the Sunday-police, I grabbed the camera to take pictures of all the tourists, or of whatever I could find.  The first thing I found was a new car parked out in front, a monstrous white Excalibur.  This car actually show up every year for the garden show, another tradition.  Otherwise, things were as expected.  Garden shoppers streaming into the palace grounds.  Palace gargoyles pointing to the best garden goods.  Along the way, blossoms decorate the ancient chestnut trees that line one of the palace streets.  Nice walk.
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My goal was a simple loop around the palace walls, taking me past all of Pommersfelden's landmarks.  When I came to the graveyard, the quiet was welcoming, compared to the chaos of the tourist invasion elsewhere.  Inside, I was struck by the realization that we know this place now, with plots from our friends the Hofmanns, our neighbors the Stirnweiss' and Gumbrechts, the Werners, original owners of our house, and a recent cross for our late next-door neighbor, Frau Densler.  Small villages continue to give comfort.
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I continued my walk, glad to be here and glad to be a small part of a small Franconian village, even if I can't understand the Frankish of my neighbors. I realized that we have been here long enough that I know whoes yard can be depended on for good flower pictures and I look forward to a new business in town, our neighbor Marion's jewelry business will have a big opening in just a few months.
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So, as far as I know, that's my weekend.  (It is still Sunday afternoon, other excitement could hit).  Tomorrow, it's back to work.  Six weeks and counting.

John




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